The new guidelines of the National Medical Commission (NMC) to reduce fees for half of the total number of approved seats in private medical schools will not be applicable to educational institutions in Kerala, according to a recent judgment of the Kerala High Court ( HC).
In February, Prime Minister Modi announced that 50% of private medical institute fees will be brought down to the level of government institute fees. In March, the NMC announced that medical institutes will have to comply with this decision from the new academic year.
There are 85,000 medical places in the country, of which half are in private colleges (41,190) and the other half in government colleges (43,237). “Students will first get seats in government medical colleges, their next option would be seats in private medical colleges (at the rates determined by the government) and then rest of the private seats. All admissions will be on merit ,” an NMC member told Indian Express in March.
However, the Kerala HC bench headed by Justice Devan Ramachandran said that since there is no government quota in private medical schools in Kerala, the NMC guideline will not be applicable. The bench observed that the NMC guidelines said that “the benefit of this fee structure would first be made available to those candidates who have enjoyed government quota seats…” In 2017, the Kerala Govt. passed the Kerala Medical Education Act which removed both Govt. and management fee in all private medical colleges in the state, the bench observed.
The HC judgment said that in Kerala, the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (AFRC), established under the Kerala Medical Education Act, determines and regulates the fee charged by private medical colleges . However, he asked the AFRC to comply with all other guidelines announced by the NMC. Justice Ramachandran noted in his judgment: “…the 25 guidelines or parameters issued in the Office Memorandum (by NMC) should be the guiding principle of the said committee (AFRC).”
The NMC guidelines state that the determination of rates for the other 50 percent seats, not bound by the government rate, will be done on a non-profit basis. He said the running cost of the medical college will form the basis of the fee structure.
In announcing the new guidelines, The Indian Express had previously reported that private medical colleges planned to pass on the cost incurred in subsidizing these seats to the management fee seats. The executive director of a private medical college had said, “… it is natural that if the fees are reduced for 50% of the total intake capacity, then the cost has to be compensated, and it is likely that management fee seat rates will be more expensive.”
The HC judgment also observed that the new NMC guidelines in Kerala may compel medical colleges to offset the cost of the subsidy by increasing the fee for the remaining 50% of seats. “If the OM was directed to be in force in this way, it will undoubtedly lead to a spicy situation where the rates will have to be increased for the balance of 50% of the seats in the said colleges because, in case otherwise, the institutions will not be able to sustain themselves., especially because even as of today, the AFRC (Kerala Admission and Fees Regulatory Committee) is fixing the minimum fee required for all students considering the investments in infrastructure, future prospects and other criteria specified by law, but ensuring that there is absolutely no room for exploitation in any way,” the ruling says.
A total of three writ petitions were filed before the Kerala High Court on the guidelines issued by the NMC. Two of the writ petitions, which seek to prohibit the implementation of the guidelines, were filed by associations and federations of management of self-financing private medical colleges in the state. Fathima Thazkiya, a 21-year-old medical student, filed a petition seeking the implementation of the NMC guidelines.