madras high court

Madras High Court: In a writ petition filed by post-Graduate students of the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute and Aarupadai Veedu Medical College & Hospital for non-payment of stipend for the academic years from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the division bench of Sanjay V. Gangapurwala and P. D. Audikesavalu, JJ has directed the Colleges to pay the amount of stipend to the students within a period of six weeks from the date of this order in terms of Regulation 13.3 of the Medical Council of India, Post-Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000. Further, said that Colleges are duty-bound and have legal obligation to pay stipend to the students and cannot deny the same on the ground of equitable set-off, even when the amount that is sought to be claimed by the Colleges is not yet ascertained.

The Court said that the Colleges have not denied that the students are entitled for the payment of stipend for the work they have performed as Resident Doctors, while undergoing the Post-Graduate Course in their Colleges. The payment of stipend for the work done by the Post-Graduate Students is a statutory obligation of the Medical College. At the same time, it is the right of the students to receive stipend.

After perusing Regulation 13.3, the Court said that it mandates that the Post-Graduate Students of Institutions located in various States / Union Territories shall be paid stipend on a par with the stipend paid to the Post-Graduate students of the State Government Medical Institutions / Central Government Medical Institutions in the States / Union Territories, in which the Institution is located.

In the present case, the claims between the parties do not arise out of a commercial transaction. The liability to pay stipend on the part of the Colleges to the students is under a statutory regulation. The amount payable by the College to the students as a stipend is an ascertained sum of amount. No dispute exists with regard to the payment of the amount as a stipend. Whereas the dispute regarding the payment of fees persists. The students’ stand is that they have paid excess fees than decided by the Puducherry Fee Regulatory Committee and entitled for refund of excess fees paid to the college.

The Court said that the question of equitable set-off would arise if there is an ascertained sum of money, recoverable by the Colleges from the petitioners. At present, there is no ascertained sum of money directed to be paid by the students to the Colleges towards the fees.

The Court noted that the dispute, whether the Colleges would be bound by the fees prescribed by the Fee Regulatory Authority, being Deemed Universities, or will have an independent right to determine its own fees is pending consideration before the Supreme Court. However, that in itself would not be sufficient for the Colleges to deny the payment of stipend to the students, who have already paid the fees as directed by this Court from time to time. As the payment of a stipend is a statutory liability of the College, thus, the College cannot deny the same to the students. They are duty-bound and have legal obligation to pay the said amount to the students and cannot deny the same on the ground of equitable set-off, even when the amount that is sought to be claimed by the Colleges is not yet ascertained.

[The Registrar v. D. Rajasree, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 5211, decided on 21-07-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Senior Counsel Vijay Narayanan. Rabu Manohar;

For Respondents: Senior Counsel P.S. Raman, Advocate V.B.R. Menon, Advocate Shubharanjani Ananth, Advocate V.Sudha, Advocate Shubharanjani Ananth, Advocate Ali Hasan Khan, Advocate Rabu Manoha.

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