Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 4
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) 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 Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), Mysore, 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 the national commission was made available on Monday.
In December last year, the Chandigarh State Commission had allowed an appeal ‘Shivam Malhotra Vs The Managing Director, OXL School of Multimedia & Anr’, directing OXL to refund the entire fee of Rs 2.90 lakh to the complainant and pay Rs 3 lakh as compensation for mental agony and harassment caused to him plus Rs 10,000 as cost of litigation.
The state commission had earlier observed in 2014, “Reiterating the stand of the opposite parties, advocate Pankaj Chandgothia, counsel for the opposite parties, argued that in view of the judgment passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi, in the case of ‘Regional Institute of Cooperative Management Vs Nisha’, the complainant does not fall within the definition of a 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 in the matter of admission, fees, etc. Therefore, there cannot be a question of deficiency of service and such matters cannot be entertained by the consumer fora under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”
In the recent judgment, the state commission draws a clear line between private educational institutes and colleges/educational institutes affiliated to state/Centre-run universities. The order stated, “In the recent case, the educational institutions in question, which is OXL School of Multimedia, are not statutory bodies, but mere business establishments, imparting educational services to the students by charging hefty fees. Therefore, in view of the ratio of judgments, the argument raised by the counsel for the opposite parties is bereft of merit and stands rejected.”
In the revision petitions filed by OXL before the national commission, counsel Chandgothia pointed that the degree of complainant, which is pending, is to be provided by KSOU. Due the UGC’s decision on discontinuing long distance educational courses and notification of KSOU, the degree of the complainant remains pending.
Chandgothia contended that OXL is nowhere at fault in the entire scheme. It has become impossible for the school 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 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.
It is submitted that the non-issue of degrees in the present case is not due to any fault of the revision petitioner, but that of KSOU. Therefore, the ratio of the judgment fully applies and the complaint ought to have been dismissed on this ground alone.
Stays orders against OXL school
The Chandigarh State Commission has erred in distinguishing the orders by saying that OXL School of Multimedia has no statutory regulations/backing. It is a private institute, not discharging any social obligation. In such 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
It is submitted that the non-issue of degrees to the complainant in the present case is not due to any fault of the revision petitioner, but that of Karnataka State Open University.
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