Charging of Excess Fee: HPPEIRC doubles penalty against MMU

Order MMU to refund Rs. 103.97 Cr to MBBS students

Shimla, July 24. Two member bench of H.P. Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission on Monday doubled the penalty on Maharishi Markandeshwar Medical College, Kumarhatti, district Solan (or MMU) for charging exorbitant fees from a batch of MBBS students passed in the academic session of 2013-14 to-2019 & 20.

The amended order was passed by the two members bench of the Commission comprising of Chairman Atul Koshik and member Lalit Kumar on Monday after hearing the matter afresh.

The order passed by the HPPEIRC on Monday said that MMU was accused by complainants Dr Nividita and Dr Yamin that since MBBS Course duration as per the prospectus was 4.5 years, therefore, they could not have been charged tuition fee, University charges and hostel fee etc. beyond the period of 4.5 years.

The Commission found that University charged excess fee not only to these two passed-out MBBS students but have charged the excess fee from the entire batch during 2013 to 2019-20.

The University has slapped an increased penalty of Rs one crore. However, Commission said that University would now refund Rs 36 lakh to both the complainants and also refund the excess fee of approximately amount to Rs. 1,03,96,53,000/- for the entire batch of MBBS students passed in the academic session of 2013-14 to-2019 & 20.

Earlier to this order following the high court order the matter was listed before the new commission bench of Major General Atul Kaushik and new member Lalit Kumar and the university have deposited the cost of Rs 25000 recently slapped on it by the HC) on June 19, 2023.

According to complaints University urged the Commission to reinvestigate the matter afresh but the commission rejected the plea of the University as the commission already seized over the relevant record and matters related to the charging of exorbitant fees and records verified the allegations.

The Commission was ordered by the division bench of Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua and Justice Satyen Vaidya of Himachal Pradesh High Court, on May 24, 2023, to hear the matter afresh.

The High Court has decided to remand back the matter to the commission to hear this matter afresh as the court found that the order passed against the university not having a quorum of the constituted bench of commission as one of the members of the commission decided to not put his signature on the order.

The aggrieved complaints (respondents no 5 and 6) brought the fact in their reply before HC that during the course of the entire proceedings before the commission neither the petitioners (University) nor respondent No.3 (one of the commission members) disclosed that his daughter had pursued MBBS degree from the petitioners’ institute or that respondent No.3’s son – in – law was employed as a faculty member in the petitioners’ institute. In the reply both medicos blamed the petitioner university for playing foul with complaints as well as the commission.

During the course of the hearing before the High Court member of the commission, Dr. Shashi Kant Sharma accepted the fact and stated that his daughter Dr. Sakshi Sharma was the ex. student of Maharishi Marakandeshwar University, Kumarhatti, Distt. Solan (H.P.) from the batch 2014 to 2019 of the MBBS Course and his son – in – law had also worked with the said University as Assistant Professors for the last year. He said that due to the above-mentioned reasons he did not sign on the order.

In 13 paged order passed by the High Court on May 24. 2023 took note that petitioner University had raised or flagged the objection to the continuation of a respondent (no-3) as a Member of the commission Bench only at the stage of pronouncement of the orders by the commission.

In Para 4 (iv) High Court verdict has observed that it is well settled that justice should not only be done but should also be seen to have been done. In the face of (above) admitted factual scenario rejection of the application moved by the petitioner seeking suspension of proceeding in the complaints preferred by respondents No 5 and 6 completely on the observation that ” same is found to be without any provisions of the law on merits ” cannot be said to be in order.

Along with the reply filed by respondents state, chairman and respondent no 3( member) dated June 9, 2022, has been appended. In this note, respondent No-3 had practically admitted his interest in the matter and stated that he would not be in a position to participate in the pronouncement on the order on June 9, 2022.

Interestingly HC has also slapped a cost of Rs 25000 which was paid by the university to the complaint (Dr. Nividita and Dr Yamini) before or by June 19, 2023.

The HC has also set aside the June 9, 2022 order(annexures P-4 and 5) of the Commission and said that the commission should consist of a Chairperson and a maximum of two members from amongst persons of eminence of public life or in the field of higher education or who have remained Secretary or above to the Government of Himachal Pradesh or held equivalent post in the Government of India for a period of three years or more.

Earlier to this on the same complaint commission had been ordered to refund the excess fee tune to Rs 103.97 Crore and also imposed a penalty of Rs.45 lakhs on the university and medical college for charging excess fees from the complainants.

Instead of refunding the excess fee and depositing the penalty MMU and MMC had preferred to file a civil writ petition before the high court for suspending the proceedings in the complaints.

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