With the Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice, V N Khare and Justice S H Kapadia not showing a favourable initial response to the Public Interest Litigation filed by a visiting faculty, a student of Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and a former IIM-A student early this week, eyes are set on February 27, when the case will be heard again by the Bench.
Though, the country's top two industry icons, N R Narayana Murthy of Infosys and M S Banga, chairman of Hindustan Lever Ltd met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and sought his intervention in the issue, it seems that at least for now the IIMs do not have much options left.
"There are reasons to feel that the IIMs have lost the first round of battle and the institutes now will have to wait till the new government is sworn in, which may opt to change the earlier government's decision or even may stick to the decision taken by Joshi,'' a leading advocate in Ahmedabad said.
"And for that reason, except waiting for few more months, the IIMs really do not have much options left," he added.
Requesting anonymity, he opined, "The SC has asked the IIMs to provide its accounts, statements including balance sheet for the last few years. These will clearly show that the major three IIMs, IIM-A, IIM-Bangalore and IIM-Calcutta and even IIM-Lucknow are neither financially weak nor they lack money for infrastructural development and maintenance.
"And the case may well go against the petitioners though the SC may also like to hear the logic from the Government side which led to reduction in the fees."
T U Mehta, former Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh high court, said that the legality of the fee reduction will depend largely on the terms and conditions of the formation of the IIMs. "If autonomy has been given to the IIMs, then the government must not interfere in the functioning of these institutions," he said.
It may be recalled that earlier, Saikat Sengupta, a second year student of IIM-A along with Sandeep Parekh, a Delhi-based advocate and a visiting faculty of IIM-A and Anish Mathew, a former IIM-A student filed a PIL in the SC seeking its intervention in the HRD ministry's decision to cut IIM fee by around 80 per cent.
Advocate Sudhir Nanavaty said that after the judgement of Justice T M Pai and eleven other judges of the Supreme Court a few months back, the fee structure of self-financed institutions is not under the government's purview.
"In that sense, if IIM is a self-financed institution, then the Justice Pai ruling applies to IIM as well," he said. Nanavaty however added that governments has a role in the IIM since it accepts government grant.
"I believe that in the case of the PIL filed, the Supreme Court will ask for a report from the state committees, which have been appointed to decide fee structure of self-finance colleges."Justice R J Shah, retired judge of the Gujarat high court, has been appointed to head the committee in Gujarat. "SC might also ask the Justice R J Shah committee to examine the IIM case," he said.