Court verdict on private colleges setback for Achuthanandan


Thiruvananthapuram : The V.S. Achuthanandan government suffered a serious setback with the Supreme Court Monday upholding a high court ruling striking down several clauses of the state's professional colleges act, doing away with the quotas and fee structures prescribed by the Left government.

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Following the verdict the management of the 72 self-financing engineering colleges and 10 private medical colleges in the state will have full rights to fix the fees and also admit students from their own list. They need not pick up students from the qualifying examination conducted by the government.

The Supreme Court Monday allowed the private medical and engineering colleges in Kerala to conduct a separate common entrance test (CET) for the ensuing academic year.

A division bench of the court in January headed by the then Chief Justice V.K. Bali had termed as unconstitutional several clauses related to the conduct of entrance examinations, fees, quotas and the status of the minorities in the act.

It was against this verdict that the government had approached the apex court.

The legislation, called the Kerala Professional Colleges (Prohibition of Capitation Fee, Regulation of Admission, Fixation of Non-Exploitative Fee and Other Measures to Ensure Equity and Excellence in Professional Education) Act, came into effect last year. The professional colleges challenged the act in the high court last year.

The court had ruled that the college managements had the right to conduct their own examinations and determine the fees.

The apex court upheld the same ruling Monday.

"Consequent to the verdict today we will conduct our tests and admit students through discussions with our colleagues," said George Paul, who leads the Medical Management Association.

The Justice P.A. Mohammed Committee set up under the act will still be able to look into if these associations indulge in any violation. The fees it had cleared for admission to the Medical Management seats was fixed at Rs.130,000 to Rs.150,000.

"But in today's verdict that does not hold and now we would be charging an annual fee of Rs.325,000 to Rs.370,000. We will consider admitting students who hail from the weaker sections at a lower fees through a scholarships fund," said Paul.

G.P.C. Nayar, president of the Private Engineering Colleges Association, welcomed the judgment. "Though the judgment is in our favour, we would still look into social issues when we fix the fees and the admission procedures."

Former state education minister E.T. Mohammed Basheer said the situation had arisen because of the "callous attitude of the Left government".

Reacting to the verdict, State Education Minister M.A. Baby said the apex court verdict favoured the management. "We will now sit down and fix what sort of reservation should be made for candidates from the weaker and backward class communities, and for this the central government should immediately come out with reservation clauses for the minority communities."