Govt treads fine line on CET negotiation

Make the Padmaraj Committee report public, demand engg colleges

Even as it bargains hard on setting engineering fee, colleges have decided to hit back by demanding that the government make public the key report on fees.

A section of engineering colleges have decided to hit back by demanding to make the Padmaraj Committee report public. If the fee fixed is favourable to the private colleges, the balance of power tilts towards them, and expect them to have the upper hand in negotiations.

The State government could find itself on the backfoot if the government's report is made public, as it might narrow their negotiating space once the report is made public.

SC judgments

The negotiations between the State government and private colleges have to be viewed in the context of various Supreme Court judgments in the last decade such as the TMA Pai judgment and the Islamic Academy judgment. These judgments established that State governments had no role to play in the admissions of private colleges, but at the same time, established some mechanisms to check profiteering by colleges. One of these was to set up a fee regulatory committee headed by a retired judge to fix fees for colleges.

However, this process has been subverted in Karnataka, as the State government and private colleges entered into a mutually beneficial agreement. In return for a share of the seats in private colleges, the State government would sign an agreement with them to set the fee to a more convenient figure. The institution of the Fee regulatory committee was given a go-by, and the past few years saw both parties resorting to consensual agreements ratified by the Supreme Court.

2009 judgment

However, all this was thrown awry by a two-member bench of the High court in 2009, that effectively ruled that in the event that a fee regulatory committee's report has been accepted by the government, fee fixed by consensual agreements are invalid.

The State government soon appointed a fee regulatory committee headed by former high court judge Justice B Padmaraj, who submitted a report in March. Hiding behind a technical clause that it has not yet 'accepted' the report yet, the State government decided to go ahead with a consensual agreement with private colleges.

However, negotiations between private colleges and the State government have hit a roadblock. The State government wants an annual fee of Rs 30,000, while private colleges want Rs 50,000.

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