Debating India

No quota in unaided private colleges

Saturday 13 August 2005, by VENKATESAN*J.

Ruling applicable from next year: Supreme Court

Highlights of judgmentUnaided minority and non-minority institutions have absolute rights to establish, administer and admit students of their choice These institutions can have their own admission procedures `No’ to capitation fees 15 per cent quota for NRI students

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday held that unaided minority and non-minority institutions had absolute rights to admit students of their choice in medicine, engineering and other professional courses without government interference.

A seven-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, also abolished the State quota and reservation in unaided, private minority and non-minority colleges.

The judgment would be effective from the next academic year and all admissions made during 2005-2006 through court orders and directions of State committees would not be disturbed.

"Serious encroachment"

The Bench said imposition of the State quota or enforcing reservation policy in unaided professional institutions constituted a serious encroachment on their right and autonomy.

Mr. Justice Lahoti, writing the unanimous judgment, said, "Merely because the resources of the State in providing professional education are limited, private educational institutions, which intend to provide better professional education, cannot be forced by the State to make admissions available on the basis of [the] reservation policy to less meritorious candidates."

In 2002, an 11-judge Bench in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case laid down broad guidelines. As different High Courts interpreted them differently, a five-judge Bench gave clarifications in 2003 but further chaos and confusion occurred in admissions.

In view of this, the seven-judge Bench was constituted to reinterpret the two judgments.

The judges said, "Neither the policy of reservation can be enforced by the State nor any quota or percentage of admissions can be carved out to be appropriated by the State in a minority or non-minority unaided educational institution."

Over 100 petitions

The Bench, which included Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari, Justice Arun Kumar, Justice G.P. Mathur, Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, was dealing with over 100 petitions filed by All-India Medical and Engineering Colleges Association president T.D. Naidu, individual colleges, the Centre, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Reiterating the ruling given in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case, Mr. Justice Lahoti said, "Unaided institutions, minority or non-minority, as they are not deriving any aid from State funds, have unfettered fundamental right to choose students and the procedure, subject to its being fair, transparent and non-exploitative."

Minority status

The Bench said, "Minority institutions would be free to admit students of their own choice, including students of non-minority community as also members of their own community from other States, both to a limited extent only and not in a manner and to such an extent that their minority educational institution status is lost. If they do so, they lose the protection of Article 30 (1) of the Constitution (relating to minorities)."

The Bench recommended that the admissions be regulated by a centralised common entrance test either at the State or national level and single window procedure. It put a complete ban on collection of capitation fees and profiteering by colleges. It said though every institution was free to devise its own fee structure, it could be regulated in the interest of students.

The Bench allowed a 15 per cent quota for non-resident Indian students in private colleges and permitted them to charge higher fees.

Such seats should be utilised only for bona fide NRIs and for their children and merit should not be given the go-by. The amount collected from NRI students should be utilised for students from weaker sections.

The court suggested that legislation be enacted to prevent misutilisation of such quota or any malpractice referable to NRI quota seats.

See online : The Hindu

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