Private Medical Colleges take NMC to court over order calling for MBBS fee on par with GMCs for 50 percent seats

Chennai: Upset with the National Medical Commission (NMC) order regarding 50% seats in the private medical colleges, several deemed to be universities and self-financing medical colleges in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have now approached the Madras High Court and filed a plea challenging the concerned fee order.

In the concerned order issued in February 2022, NMC had directed the private medical colleges to charge equal fees with the government medical colleges in 50% of the total seats.

Agreeing to consider the matter, Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N. Mala on Tuesday has listed the issue for further hearing on August 8.

The plea before the HC bench has been filed by a host of private medical colleges and deemed-to-be universities including Dhanalakshmi Srinivasan Medical College and Hospital, PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Swamy Vivekanandha Medical College Hospital and Research Institute, Melmaruvathur Adhiparasakthi Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences and Education Promotion Society for India among others.

Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that NMC, the apex medical education regulatory body had clarified recently that the fees of 50 per cent seats in the private medical colleges would be at par with government medical colleges of that particular State/UT.

“After extensive consultations, it has been decided that the fee of the 50 per cent seats in the private medical colleges and deemed universities should be at par with the fee in the government medical colleges of that particular State and UT. The benefit of this fee structure would be first made available to those candidates who have availed government quota seats, but are limited to the extent of 50 per cent of the total sanctioned strength of the respective medical college/deemed university,” NMC had mentioned in the notification.

“However, if the government quota seats are less than 50 per cent of total sanctioned seats, the remaining candidates would avail the benefit of a fee equivalent to the government medical college fees, based purely on the merit,” it added.

So, if the NMC rule gets implemented for the 50 per cent of private medical college seats, the students getting admission in those 50 percent seats will be liable to pay such a minimal amount on their education.

However, no matter how promising this sounds to the medical aspirants, who choose to leave India and move abroad for cheaper medical education, such a rule fails to take into consideration the plights if the private medical college managements who pay lakhs and crores of money to set up the infrastructure.

Therefore, upset with the NMC order, the management of private medical colleges had earlier approached the Union Health Ministry seeking directions upon NMC to withdraw the diktat. In fact, the colleges had expressed their decision of moving to the court as well, challenging the NMC fee order.

However, the NMC did not withdraw the fee order and as promised, several private medical colleges and deemed to be universities have now approached the Madras High Court challenging the Apex medical body’s order.

As per the latest media report by The Hindu, filing the pleas, the colleges have challenged the Constitutional validity of Section 10 (1) (i) of the National Medical Commission Act of 2019 under which NMC had issued the concerned office memorandum regarding the fee at private medical colleges. Praying the court to quash the concerned memorandum, the senior counsel for one of the institutes, Vijay Narayan informed the court about the heavily subsidized fee in the government medical colleges and pointed out that it would be impossible for the private medical institutes to charge similar amount of fees for 50% of their total seats.

In their plea, Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI) argued that the fee order of NMC had violated the fundamental right for establishing or administering medical institutes secured under Article 19(1) (g). The college also contended that the NMC direction would result in discrimination in the fee structure since the students pursuing medical education in 50% of the seats would have to bear the cost of education for the other half of students, adds Indian Express.

Referring to the Supreme Court order in the case of T.M.A Pai, where the top court had observed that a few students should not be liable to pay for the education of others, the plea in this regard stated, “Since higher education is not a fundamental right, it is unreasonable to compel a citizen to pay for the education of another, more so in the unrealistic world of competitive examinations.”

At this outset, the plea contended that “the determination of fees for 50% of seats will result in the nationalization of the private educational institutions in respect of important features including their right to administer the Institution.”

Relying on the top court order in the T.M.A Pai case, the college also argued that since a private institute does not receive aid from the Government, its decision regarding the scale of fee should be in the hands of the college only. It was argued by the college that the government could only get a say regarding the collection of capitation fee or profiteering involved in the private medical colleges.

The plea also questioned the NMC’s power for issuing such directives as it argued that the Apex Medical Body could only frame ‘guidelines’ for determining the fees for the 50 per cent of seats in the private medical colleges. However, it can not claim to have the regulatory power for directing the private medical colleges to restrict the amount of fees that can be charged from the students, argued the college in its petition.

Mr. Narayan, P.S. Raman and AR.L. Sundaresan, who represented the medical colleges also referred to the urgency regarding the matter since the Fee Fixation Committee in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry were expected to commence their work on an immediate basis.

When the counsel for the medical colleges, Mr. Narayan requested the court to stay the operation of NMC’s office memorandum, the Chief Justice responded by saying that currently it would be unnecessary since the results of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) had not yet been announced.

At this outset, the counsel for Sri Ramachandra Institute requested for the Court’s permission for mentioning if the fee determination committee in Tamil Nadu would commence their decision for Fee Fixation on the basis of the NMC’s fee order.

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