Modern Dental College & Research Centre & Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors.

After reading this case you will learn how the Supreme Court upheld the right to education and various other allied rights in light of specific statutes and rules. The court has further laid down a clearer picture and distinct interpretation of law in matters of admissions, fees fixation and the like.
CITATION 
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice A.R. Dave, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice R.K. Agrawal, Justice A.K. Goel and Justice R. Banumathi
DATE OF JUDGEMENT02.05.2016

Introduction

Education, a subject of the concurrent list, is one of the subject-matters before the legislature of the country that requires frequent legislations—depending upon the need and time. Enumerated in Entry 25 of the Concurrent list, the affiliation of this subject to both levels of Legislatures is sometimes debated, sometimes shared harmoniously. India has witnessed a plethora of case laws in which laws relating to various aspect of admissions, reservation of seats and fixation of fees in respect of government-aided institutions and private unaided educational institutions is interpreted. The present case falls in the category of the latter. Not a landmark judgment out-and-out, this case would rather be referred to as one that lays down the same landmark law, in unique terms of the new facts and circumstances.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: The State Legislature of Madhya Pradesh enacted the ‘Niji Vyavasayik Shikshan Sanstha (Pravesh Ka Viniyaman Avam Shulk Ka Nirdharan) Adhiniyam, 2007 (further referred to as “Act, 2007”). Certain rules, viz., Admissions Rules, 2008 and the Madhya Pradesh Private Medical and Dental Post Graduate Courses Entrance Examination Rules, 2009 which have been framed by the State Government in pursuance of the exercise of the power conferred upon it under Section 12 of the Act.

The aforementioned statute and rules have been formulated with regard to the admission of students in the PG courses in private professional unaided educational institutions. The provisions also involved fixation of fees. The constitutional validity of the Acts and the rules therein has been challenged by the appellants in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. High Court had upheld the validity of the challenged provisions. Now, the petitioners of the High Court appear as appellants in the Supreme Court of India.

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The legislative competence of the State Legislature is also in question before the apex Court.

Issues

The main issues in the case were:

  1. Whether the State Legislature has the legislative competence to enact the aforesaid Act?
  2. Whether the provisions relating to fixation of fees justified/valid?
  3. Whether the provisions relating to eligibility criteria for admission justified/valid?
  4. Whether the provisions relating to reservation of seats justified/valid?
  5. Whether the provisions relating to justified/valid?
  6. Whether the appellants have a Fundamental Right to ‘occupation’ under Article 19(1) (g)?
  7. If such a right exists, does the impugned Act impose restrictions on this right?
  8. If yes, are the restrictions imposed reasonably?

Summary of court decision and judgment

The Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, upholding the validity of the Act, 2007, and the rules framed under it as well. The spirit of the landmark cases used as arguments by the appellants was invoked by the Honorable Bench. The ‘restrictions’ on the right of occupation of the appellants imposed by the State in form of this Act, 2007 was held to be in consonance with the view laid down in T.M.A. Pai Foundation, Islamic Academy of Education and P.A. Inamdar case.

Public interest, the welfare of the student community, transparency, and fairness in order to make merit and excellence flourish was held to be the important reason as to why such regulation in the admission process was necessary. Restriction on fees is important to prevent exploitation of any form (especially profiteering) of the students pursuing higher studies. Obiter has been laid down in words that Capitation fees cannot be permitted, and no seats can be reserved by the payment of capitation fees.

The right to occupation of the educational institutions (under Article 19(1) (g)) was recognized by the Court. Other than the major ratio, the Court also reiterated the already expounded provisions of granting autonomy to private institutions, provisions of Article 41 and 19(1)(g) have been interpreted to understand that high-quality education ensuring excellence need to be ensured vide these laws, currently under challenge.

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Analysis

The author finds the judgment and the supplied reasoning apt and correct. The Bench has balanced the right of the educational institutions and the right of the government, along with the duty of the Legislature (State) in perfect harmony. In consistence with every landmark judgment of the concerned subject-matter, the Bench has managed to lay down the new law in unique, more harmonious terms.

It was agreed upon by the Bench in T.M.A. Pai3 that standards of education in private educational institutions are higher compared to the status of government colleges these days, and this high quality is in the interest of the general public. Thus, such institutions must have the right to regulate the admission of students and fees to be charged. However, this right to autonomy is limited on the grounds that a rational admission criterion and fee structure would be enunciated, with no provision giving away capitation fees and profiteering. The current judgment is in consonance with the same.

In the case of Islamic Academy of Education and anr. v. State of Karnataka & ors., a Committee was directed to be set up by the State government, which would approve or propose another fee structure, that shall be binding for 3 years—after which a revision can be applied for. This case itself made it clear that the right of occupation can be limited and the extent of restriction was wide. Hence, the Bench upholding the validity of the Act, 2007 is apt and correctly reasoned, when it came to the ambit of determining restrictions on the Fundamental Right under Article 19(1) (g) [right to occupation]. Article 19(1)(g), Article 30 (1), and the case laws have been justified and the ruling of the Court is correct, with accurate reasoning supplied.

Conclusion

In a scenario where education has legally and judicially been recognized as a “commercial” occupation, such steps to forbid and discourage marketing in the name of education are necessary. Charging of exorbitant fees by the private college is something everyone is aware of, and the exploitation of students for profits, and not a simple surplus is where things go morally and legally wrong.

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Setting up a Commission to review fees policies and admission criteria, with an expiry of a period of 3 years seems to be a perfect balance—of the right to autonomy on one side, and the right not to be exploited on another. The aforementioned cases, along with the present case lay down a clear picture and distinct interpretation of the law in matters of admissions, fees fixation, and the like.