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Private quota bill takes shape - 6000 institutes to be covered

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI in Delhi
  • Published 26.04.08
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New Delhi, April 25: The Centre plans to table a bill to introduce quotas and control fees in private higher education institutes in the monsoon session of Parliament.

Aided and unaided private higher education institutes, including management schools, will be covered. But private unaided minority-run institutions will be exempt from the proposed law.

If the bill is passed, quotas will kick in at 6,000 private institutes and colleges, including 20 universities.

The legislation is expected to have a smooth political passage but it is likely to run into legal challenges.

Days after ordering OBC quotas in government higher education institutions, human resource development minister Arjun Singh is set to place before the cabinet the draft bill regulating aided and unaided private institutions, senior officials said.

Arjun has asked officials of his ministry to “prioritise” the bill to regulate private universities and finalise a note to be presented to the cabinet, sources said.

The ministry has already informed the cabinet secretariat that it intends to present the draft bill before the cabinet, possibly as soon as next week. The cabinet usually meets each Thursday.

On April 10, the Supreme Court had upheld OBC reservations in government higher education institutes and a crucial constitutional amendment allowing quotas.

The 93rd amendment altered Article 15 of the Constitution — prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste or gender — by adding a clause on reservations in educational institutions.

“Nothing in this article.... shall prevent the state from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes or for the SCs and STs in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions, including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state...,” the inserted clause says.

But constitutional expert P.P. Rao, who was on the panel of lawyers that challenged the OBC quota law in the Supreme Court, said that reservations in private institutions were “illegal, as things stand now”.

“Of the five judges who heard the OBC reservation bill, one clearly said reservations in private educational institutions cannot be allowed. The other four reserved their comments as the case before them did not require them to speak on the matter. So the private sector quotas are illegal, as things stand now,” he said.

The draft Private Educational Institutions (regulation of admission and fixation of fees) Bill envisages an admission and fee regulatory committee (AFRC) at the Centre and in each state.

The committee will consist of representatives of regulatory bodies like the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Medical Council of India (MCI), apart from government officials.

The committee will set the fees to be charged by each private institute individually, based on a set of parameters, including the location of the institution, nature of the course, cost of land and available infrastructure, according to the draft.

Unaided private institutes affiliated to a central or state university can retain 50 per cent seats under a “management quota”. These seats can be filled by the institute through one of many examinations identified by the Centre or the state, according to the draft. The proposed law will treat private aided minority institutions on a par with these institutions.

Of the remaining 50 per cent seats, the private institutes will need to reserve the same percentage of seats for SC/ST and OBC students as reserved by the central or state university they are affiliated to.

Aided private institutes affiliated to a central or state university can retain only up to 15 per cent of their seats —based on the extent of government aid — under the “management quota”, the draft says. Reservations will apply to the remaining 85 per cent seats.

Private deemed universities will have to reserve 50 per cent of their seats for students from the state where the campus lies, while the remaining 50 per cent seats will be filled through a central examination, the draft says. Quotas will apply to each category.

At present, private institutions and varsities which obtain recognition as deemed universities are exempt from the government’s reservation policy and are largely free to set their own fees.