The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday rejected private engineering colleges’ plea seeking permission to charge a fee higher than that fixed by the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (AFRC).
It, however, directed the EAMCET convenor to notify students about their impending liability to pay the differential amount, if any, depending on the outcome of the writ petitions. In other words, the students should be prepared to cough up more if the final verdict goes in favour of private engineering colleges. The court allowed the colleges to obtain an undertaking to this effect from each student.
Justice Noushad Ali was dealing with a batch of writ petitions filed by the managements of various engineering colleges challenging GO 57 dated July 6, 2013 fixing and notifying a fee of `30,000 per student in the first year.
Petitioners’ counsels contended that AFRC recommendations for fixing fee at the government level were not based on objective criteria and that it did not give them an opportunity to explain their side of the story. They termed the May 25th hearing wherein the panel listened to their views as a mere formality.
Additional advocate general KG Krishna Murthy opposed their arguments and asserted that the AFRC had come up with its recommendations with the assistance of experts like auditors and pay-scale consultants. He denied that it did not lend its ears to the petitioners. “Proposals submitted by each of the institutions were dispassionately dealt with before taking a stand on fee structure,” he said.
After listening to both the sides concerned, Justice Noushad Ali made it clear that the court, at this stage, was not inclined to grant an exparte order permitting the petitioners to charge a fee higher than that statutorily notified.
The judge, in his order, said the court should keep the interests of not only the petitioner colleges, but also students upon whom the ultimate burden falls.
“Their paying capacity has never been taken as a factor. Unfortunately, this class is treated as an alien to the field of fixation of fee and the issue has always been treated as a bilateral issue between the state and the institutions without involving the entity which will be ultimately affected,” he observed.
The judge further directed the AFRC to communicate the reasons supporting the issuance of the relevant GO to all the petitioner colleges within two weeks. The matter will be heard again after three weeks.