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The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday ordered all medical colleges across the country to return collected fees in excess of Rs850,000 to students within 15 days.

The order was passed in a suo motu case being heard at the SC Lahore registry on exorbitant fees charged by medical colleges.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar warned that action would be taken against medical colleges not complying with the court's orders.

The court also stopped the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from harassing medical college officials and adjourned the case until tomorrow.

The court also discussed the matter of medical colleges that were registered despite non-compliance with rules during the tenure of former Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) head Dr Asim.

The matter was referred to the FIA and the National Accountability Bureau, which were ordered to submit a report on the subject within a month.

Over the years, private medical colleges have increased fees by introducing a number of new charges, and have also accused of taking donations from students at the time of admissions.

The SC had in 2010 taken suo moto notice of the matter after which it was decided that the per student annual fee will be Rs550,000 which will be increased by 7pc in a year.

The fee was increased to Rs642,000 in 2013 but a number of promises private medical colleges had made ─ such as providing free treatment on 50pc of the beds in attached hospitals and some facilities for students ─ were not met.

In 2016, PMDC introduced a central induction system for students to stop private medical colleges from receiving donations but the colleges refused to implement this and obtained stay orders from various courts across the country.

The PMDC in 2017 started negotiations with the private colleges again and it was decided that the annual fee will be raised to Rs800,000 with the condition that they will provide all facilities and quality education to students and will not take donations from them.