New Delhi/Calcutta, April 8: A Supreme Court decision today opened up the possibility of the Indian institutes of management getting an opportunity to air their views in the courtroom about the Centre’s order to cut fees.
The court today issued notices to all the six IIMs, asking them to show cause why they should not be impleaded as parties in the case where a public interest litigation has challenged the human resource development ministry’s fee-cut order.
It set April 16 to hear their replies. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice V.N. Khare, however, said the locus standi of the present petitioners — advocate Sandeep Parekh and a student and an alumnus of IIMs — to contest the fee cut should be still determined.
Faculty members at IIM Calcutta, who are opposed to the cut, fear that this would be the vehicle the minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, would use to interfere in the institutes’ functioning.
“We are exploring possibilities of how our views on the issue can be heard,” said faculty spokesperson and dean Ashis Bhattacharyya, indicating that they were weighing legal options to join the case.
IIMC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar’s acceptance of the cut was described as a “let-down” by the faculty, which is now eager to look for redress elsewhere.
Calcutta’s capitulation has left IIM Ahmedabad despondent, too, as it has been left alone in its resistance to the fee cut. Bangalore has not made its mind known yet while the three others fell in line with the ministry some time ago.
As expected, Deveshwar’s decision, just before the Supreme Court hearing today, was used by the ministry to press home its argument that most IIMs were already singing its tune.
Additional solicitor-general Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the ministry, went a step further than reality by making a curious statement that suggests one of two things — either Bangalore, too, has given in or he is not fully informed.
“When five out of the six IIMs have already accepted the decision on fee cut, who are these petitioners to question it'” Rohtagi asked. Four have accepted it, not five. Later, Rohtagi could not precisely say which five IIMs had, but insisted that, “excepting IIM Ahmedabad”, others have agreed.
At a board meeting last week, IIMA kept the fee unchanged at Rs 1.5 lakh a year — the ministry wants it slashed to Rs 30,000 — but offered to negotiate with the ministry. Rohtagi told the court: “The government is agreeable to the suggestion of the IIM Ahmedabad chairman, .R. Narayana Murthy, for a dialogue on the issue and will begin the talks immediately after the elections.”
“If IIM Ahmedabad accepts the reduction after the talks, then that would be the end of the matter,” he said.