A new bill - the Tamil Nadu Establishment of Private Law Colleges (Prohibition) Act, 2014 (full text) - was introduced in the Assembly by the Tamil Nadu Government on July 30th. The objects and reasons for the bill are described by the government as follows (the emphasis on the key words below is mine):
The Government have taken a policy decision to establish adequate number of Government Law Colleges in the State in a phased manner, to impart legal education at affordable cost. The past experience reveals that private trusts/societies are not able to provide legal education at affordable cost to the economically and socially weaker sections and also not able to continue to run the law colleges successfully. The Government have, therefore, decided to prohibit the establishment of law colleges by the private persons in the State by undertaking legislation.
This raises some questions:
- Is this bill arising out of ideological considerations (i.e. private provision is not good), or, is it arising in response to concerns felt/expressed by the public that they do not want private players to set up and run educational institutions? Or a very complex combination of both?
- Does the government have the right to control citizens' access to education by determining what is the 'adequate' amount of supply and restricting supply beyond that? What if citizens' perception of 'adequate' is far higher than the government's?
- Can the government insist that education must be provided to the public at a price not more than a certain price deemed by the government as 'affordable' to the public, irrespective of the costs incurred by the education provider?
- What kind of criteria should the government use to determine if an educational institution is being run 'successfully' or not? Shouldn't the government make public such criteria/standards, so that educational institutions know the standards that they are expected to live up to?
- Can the government 'prohibit' private parties from establishing educational institutions by law even if the private parties are willing to abide by all the rules and regulations imposed by the government on existing institutions, either government or private?
- Isn't the proposal for this Act by the Tamil Nadu government an admission of their inability to properly regulate private Law Colleges that are not run 'successfully'? Are they throwing out the baby with the bathwater because of their inability to separate the private Law colleges that are run well from those that aren't run well, and deal with each appropriately?
It seems inevitable that this bill will end up in Court.