ISLAMABAD: With many institutions recently offering admissions to students aspiring to study medicine, the Supreme Court was asked on Thursday to call and examine the fee structure of all private medical and dental colleges in the country.
The petition was filed by Advocate Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta who explained that he had recently come across parents who were worried about the fee structure of various private medical colleges. He said the parents claimed that some of the colleges were charging over Rs1 million per annum and the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), which regulates the medical profession, was considering enhancing the fees up to Rs1.3m per annum.
Advocate Bhutta requested the Supreme Court to consider fixing the fee at Rs500,000 per year or at least at the level determined by the PMDC in 2014, which was Rs600,000 per annum.
Since the future of thousands of future medical professionals hinged on the issue, he argued that the petition should be heard by the Supreme Court under Article184(3) of the Constitution which dealt with the enforcement of fundamental rights.
He explained that because of the excessive fees charged by private medical colleges, the country’s middle class was being deprived of the opportunity to study medicine. The fundamental rights of citizens under Articles 3, 18 and 25, which ensured the elimination of exploitation, freedom of trade, business or profession, and equality of citizens, were being threatened because of this, he said, and the future of the country’s youth was being put in jeopardy.
The petitioner cited a case pending before the Supreme Court, titled Faraz Ahmad versus PMDC, in which the council, in the parawise comments of June 20, 2016, had mentioned the decisions taken during the 138th session of Sept 2014 to revise the tuition fees of all medical colleges.
The decision stated that: “Enchancement of tuition fees per annum shall be at the rate of seven per cent of the annual tuition fee of Rs600,000 ie Rs42,000.” The decision was meant to be applicable to all private as well as public medical colleges. The PMDC’s parawise comments also cautioned that no college will be allowed to charge over and above the fees approved by the council.
However, the petitioner regretted that it was unfortunate that a few medical colleges were blackmailing students. During the proceedings of the Faraz Ahmad case, the petitioner found out that a medical college in Peshawar had warned students, through a notification on Dec 2015, that any student or employee who challenged orders or decisions taken by the college administration in a court of law, would be charged Rs50,000 for every case filed in a civil court, Rs60,000 for cases filed in district courts, Rs200,000 for cases filed in a high court and Rs300,000 for cases filed in the Supreme Court.
“This is the worst example [of how colleges] stop students or employees from availing their fundamental right of invoking jurisdiction of the court to seek relief under the law,” the petitioner argued, adding that the Supreme Court should also take suo motu notice of this injustice being meted out to students in medical colleges.
Advocate Bhutta regretted that the state of affairs had necessitated an intervention from the apex court in order to halt the exploitation of students and their parents in the interest of justice.
It is pertinent to mention here that under the PMDC’s rules, the petition argued, medical colleges were allowed to admit 150 students in private medical institutions. If a college charged a student Rs600,000 per annum, that meant that it earned a hefty amount of Rs90 million from each class, the petitioner claimed.