Kerala HC restrains Private medical colleges from charging advance fees during COVID pandemic is ‘profiteering’

The High Court of Kerala in the case of Sanju Simon and Ors. v/s State of Kerala and Ors. restrained the Private medical colleges from charging advance fees during COVID pandemic from ‘profiteering.

As many as 55 petitions were filed by the students who were admitted to the 2019-2020 batch of the MBBS Course offered by various private medical colleges in the State. The fee that can be collected by the said medical colleges, from the students admitted thereto, has been fixed by the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee constituted in the State of Kerala in terms of the Kerala Medical Education (Regulation and Control of Admission to Private Medical Educational Institutions) Act, 2017. As per the provisions of the 2017 Act, the committee is expected to determine the fee that can be collected by the private medical educational institutions from the students in the year in which they are admitted to the institution concerned and the institutions are prohibited from collecting any amount in excess of the annual fee so determined, in an academic year.

The division bench of Justice A.K.Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P. noted that a fee is a remuneration for services rendered. When the fee permitted to be collected is an annual fee for rendering educational services, the collection of any fee that does not relate to the academic year for which the educational service is rendered but for a future period, would militate against the very concept of a fee for it would be a payment for services yet to be rendered. The educational institutions would then be resorting to ‘profiteering’.

The bench allowed the petitions and directed the respondent private medical institutions, where the petitioners in these writ petitions are studying, to refrain from demanding or collecting academic fees from them in respect of any academic year other than the one for which instructions are currently being imparted based on the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 during such periods when there occurs a disruption to the continuity of the MBBS course offered by the Institution concerned.

The court also made it clear that the directions issued in this judgment are to operate only in the aforesaid peculiar situation thrown up by the Covid pandemic.

Click Here To Read Original Order/Judgement

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