COMPLAINTS RELATING TO UNIVERSITY DEGREES/DIPLOMAS NOT MAINTAINABLE: NATIONAL CONSUMER COMMISSION

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The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has once again re-affirmed the legal position that education matters relating to the grant of degrees/diplomas by universities and affiliated institutes are outside the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. Accepting the contention of a local Institute affiliated to the Karnataka State Open University that EDUCATION IS NOT A CONSUMER DISPUTE, it has unconditionally stayed the orders passed by the Chandigarh State Commission against the OXL School of Multimedia in December last. A copy of the orders of National Commission was made available today.

 Earlier, the Chandigarh State Commission had allowed an appeal titled  ‘Shivam Malhotra Vs. The Managing Director, OXL School of Multimedia & Anr.’ directing OXL to refund the entire fee of Rs.2,90,000/- to the complainant and pay Rs.3,00,000/- as compensation for mental agony and harassment caused to him plus Rs.10,000/- as costs of litigation;

The State Commission had observed “Reiterating the stand of the opposite parties, Sh. Pankaj Chandgothia, Advocate, Counsel for the opposite parties argued that in view of ratio of judgment of Hon’ble National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi passed in case titled ‘Regional Institute of Cooperative Management. Vs. Nisha’, the complainant does not fall within the definition of consumer. Placing reliance on the aforesaid judgment, he argued that education is not a commodity and educational institutions are not providing any kind of service, therefore, in the matter of admission, fees, etc., there cannot be a question of deficiency of service and such matters cannot be entertained by the Consumer Fora under Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”

     “It may be stated here that in the instant case, the educational institutions, in question, i.e. OXL School of Multimedia are not statutory bodies and are mere business establishments, imparting educational services to the students by charging hefty fees. Therefore, in view of the ratio of judgments, referred to above, the argument raised by the Counsel for the opposite parties, that the complainant does not fall within the definition of consumer and that education is not a commodity and educational institutions are not providing any kind of service, therefore, in the matter of admission, fees, etc., there cannot be a question of deficiency of service and such matters cannot be entertained by the Consumer Fora under Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is bereft of merit and stands rejected.”

In the revision petitions filed by OXL before the National Commission, Counsel Pankaj Chandgothia pointed out that the degree of complainant which is pending is to be provided by Karnataka State Open University, Mysore. The degree of the complainant/respondent is not completed due to UGC order discontinuing long distance educational courses offered by Karnataka State Open University to educational institutes in various parts of India. Due to decision of UGC for discontinuing long distance education and notification of KSOU, the degree of the complainant remains pending and complainant was not able to give further examination.

Chandgothia contended that OXL is nowhere at fault in the entire scheme. It has become impossible for OXL to issue the said degrees due to Government and UGC notifications. The Chandigarh State Commission has erred in distinguishing the orders by saying that OXL has no statutory regulations/backing. It is a private Institute, not discharging any social obligation. In such like cases, we are of the considered opinion that no benefit of ratio of the judgments cited above, can be extended in favour of the appellants.

OXL submitted that the non-issue of degrees in the present case is not due to any fault of the revision petitioner, but that of Karnataka State Open University. Therefore, the ratio of the judgment fully applies and the complaint ought to have been dismissed on this ground alone. The degrees were to be issued by the KSOU and the same is not amenable to the jurisdiction of Consumer Forum under the Provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, and complaint filed against it is liable to be dismissed on this ground. Further, Grant of degrees and diplomas by universities and institutes are also outside the purview of the Act.

Chandgothia referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court of India titled P.T.Koshy & Anr. Vs. Ellen Charitable Trust & Ors., in Civil Appeal No. 22532/2012, decided on 09.08.2012, wherein it was held as under :-

In view of the judgment of this Court in Maharshi Dayanand University Vs. Surjeet Kaur, 2010 (11) SCC 159 = 2010 (2) CPC 696 SC, wherein this Court placing reliance on all earlier judgments has categorically held that education is not a commodity. Educational institutions are not providing any kind of service, therefore,  in the matter of admission, fees, etc., there cannot be a question of deficiency  of  service.  Such matters cannot be entertained by the Consumer Forum under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”

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