SC to examine whether educational institutions come under Consumer Protection Act

Top court admits appeal arising out of a judgment of National Consumer Redressal Commission

SC to examine whether educational institutions come under Consumer Protection Act

The Supreme Court. Photo: iStock

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 21

Do educational institutions and universities come under the preview of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?

The Supreme Court has decided to examine the issue in view of divergent verdicts delivered by it. Admitting an appeal arising out of a judgment of the National Consumer Redressal Commission, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud issued notice in the case.

“Since there are divergent views of this Court bearing on the subject as to whether an educational institution or University would be subject to the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1986, the appeal would require admission,” the Bench noted.

Complainants Manu Solanki and others had accused Vinayaka Mission University of deficiency in service and unfair trade practice by inducing them to get admitted in an unrecognised offshore programme [dental course] in 2005-2006 consisting of two-year study in Thailand and two-and-a-half-year study in the University. The programme was neither affiliated with the university nor recognized by Dental Council of India, they alleged.

The complainants were aggrieved by the national consumer commission’s decision that said ‘educational institutions’ didn’t impart ‘services’ and hence the consumer courts didn’t have jurisdiction to entertain complaints against them. The judgment was based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Anupama College of Engineering versus Gulshan Kumar in which it was said educational institutions didn’t render ‘service’.

The University had contended that the complaint was not maintainable as the complainants were not ‘consumers’; ‘education’ was not a commodity; and ‘educational institutions’ were not providing ‘service’ – a pre-condition to be covered by the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The University pointed out that the top court had in Maharshi Dayanand University versus Surjeet Kaur and PT Koshy and Another versus Ellen Charitable Trust ruled that ‘education’ was not a commodity and educational institutions were not engaged in providing ‘service’. The Supreme Court had held that in matters of admission, fees there cannot be a question of deficiency in service, it submitted.

The complainants had relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in P Sreenivasulu and Another versus PJ Alexander and Another wherein it was said educational institutions would come within the purview of the Act as ‘education’ was a ‘service’.

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