Calcutta, Sept. 29: Bengal's maiden attempt to introduce courses for enhanced fees ' an euphemism for capitation fee ' suffered a blow with Calcutta High Court striking down a special quota in the lucrative arena of medical education.
Justice Indira Banerjee held a July 19, 2003, notification calling for admission to the enhanced fee courses as 'bad in law, illegal, arbitrary and also ultra vires' to the Constitution, effectively cancelling the admission of 105 NRI-sponsored students to two state-run medical colleges.
'The court is, hereby, directing authorities of the two medical colleges to admit a new set of students into the first year from the merit list of last year's Joint Entrance Examination,' Justice Banerjee said.
Today's judgment leaves the students on the 2003 JEE merit list in a piquant situation. They have the impossible task of completing the process of their admission by tomorrow, the deadline set by the Medical Council of India (MCI).
Till late this evening, the government maintained it had not been served a copy of the court order.
The 105 students, screened from among 1,300 through an entrance test, had forked out Rs 9.24 lakh each for a seat under the NRI quota either in the Institute for Post Graduate Medical Education and Research at SSKM hospital or the Midnapur Medical College and Hospital.
The order came in response to a petition filed by Chayan Roy and 16 others who made it on the 2003 JEE merit list but were denied admission. 'The government cannot seek fresh applications and hold a separate examination for admission to the same course without first giving an opportunity to us on the JEE merit list,' they had petitioned.
Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra declined to comment till he had got a clear idea of the judgment from the government's lawyers.
But Chittaranjan Maiti, director of medical education, claimed the 105 students had been admitted according to the guidelines framed by the Supreme Court.
'We did publish all the results and have chosen only successful candidates for admission after an entrance examination, as ordered by the Supreme Court. We violated no law,' said Maiti, whose department evolved the enhanced fee scheme to tide over the lack of funds required to run the medical courses.
Last year, the Supreme Court had upheld a high court order to the MCI to create 200 more seats in the two new medical colleges. The MCI had been arguing that they lacked the necessary infrastructure.
When the state government approached the apex court, it had mentioned its intention to admit students for enhanced fees. Roy and the other students had pleaded that they be made a party to the case to put forward their opinion against the capitation fee notification.
Then the Supreme Court had turned down their request, putting the matter in the hands of the high court, which today quashed the notification.