Students will soon be able to haul up educational institutions for charging capitation fees or misleading them with false claims and promises.
The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill — cleared by the Cabinet on Friday — provides for three years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh for higher education providers guilty of misleading students. Under it, criminal proceedings can be initiated against officials who indulge in unfair educational practices — for instance, if an institute advertises in its prospectus certain facilities that it doesn’t have.
The nature and extent of the punishment will depend on the degree of offence, which will be decided by an education tribunal. The tribunal will have the powers of a trial court.
The Bill distinguishes between cases where the complainant is a sole victim and where a large number of students are affected. It proposes civil proceedings against the guilty in cases where the victim represents an isolated instance, and criminal charges where a group of students are involved.
The Bill, drafted by the Human Resource Development Ministry, follows numerous complaints received by it and its regulatory agencies that private institutions were cheating students with false claims. Also, despite a Supreme Court ban on capitation fees, the practice of seeking donations under various heads such as development fee in private professional educational institutes is rampant.
At present, India doesn’t have any legal framework to punish institutes that mislead students. Also, there is no prescribed penalty for charging capitation fees, despite the court ban.