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IIM campus buzz: govt designs out of the bag

March 19: At IIM Ahmedabad, the mood was one of caution after the Supreme Court today directed the petitioners to make the Indian institutes of management a party to the fee-cut case.

“I would react only after 15 days,” Bakul Dholakia, the director of the institute that spearheaded the B-schools’ campaign against the government’s fee-cut decision, told PTI. “I cannot comment on this issue till all court orders are read.”

The direction came after the apex court today recalled its decision to uphold the Centre’s fee-cut proposal following the government refusal to give a written undertaking not to interfere with the B-schools’ autonomy.

IIMA spokesman Prafful Anubhai said no official reaction could be offered because “for IIM Ahmedabad, the situation has not changed”; only the old issues have been opened up again.

“We are just waiting and watching how the court interprets the autonomy,” he said, referring to the court’s decision to hear petitions afresh that would for the first time include arguments on the IIMs’ autonomy.

Anubhai said the government’s “intention” to replace “autonomy” with “functioning” has far-reaching implications. “We want to see what new turn it takes, how the court interprets it (autonomy) and how the government reacts to it.”

“Who has the right to decide the fee structure is going to be the central issue,” the IIMA faculty member said.

IIMA’s Bangalore counterpart and campaign comrade has reserved its comment till after the board of governors meets on March 27. “The meeting will look at all the issues. We will comment on this development (court decision) after that meeting,” director P.G. Apte said.

A senior Ahmedabad faculty member said the government’s refusal proved its “mala fide intention”. “The government’s basic intention is to take (away) the autonomy of this institute,” he claimed.

Parent in court

Dharmendra Kumar Dua of Delhi today moved an interlocutory application (IA) in the apex court, seeking its approval for the Centre’s fee-cut move as it had enabled him to think of sending his children to an IIM. The “middle class” father of two said the fee-cut had been “an extra boost” to the B-school hopes of his son Karan, now in Class XII, and daughter Keerti of Class IX.

“When I heard that a petition is likely today, I too prepared my IA with the help of advocate T. Raja, in front of whose chamber I happen to run my photocopy business (in the apex court complex),” said Dua, who also has a printing press in Delhi’s Karol Bagh. “I was really perturbed that the whole matter would be heard afresh and decided to join as a party to stop any move to increase the fee.”

Raja contended that Harvard Law School, London Business School and even IITs (at Rs 1.5 lakh annually, including subsidy) charged less than the IIMs (Rs 4 lakh, including subsidy). He also presented a chart of fees levied by B-schools across the world to drive home his point.

The court said Dua’s application would be heard on April 8, when the fee-cut case would come up for a fresh hearing.

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