Editorial Articles


Students & Consumer Laws

Dr. Sheetal Kapoor

Imparting education has never been considered as a trade or commercial activity in India since time immemorial. But commercialisation of education has now compelled students and their parents to be cautious about the educational institutions. As Class XII results have been declared and students seek admission in different Colleges and Universities it is necessary that they are empowered and do not fall prey to the tall claims made and misleading statements made by some of the Colleges and Universities in their brochures and prospectus.
As education falls in the ambit of 'service' under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 therefore colleges and Universities fall under the Consumer Protection law. In case of deficiency of service or unfair trade practice the student/ parents/ guardians have the right to file a complaint in the consumer forum against them.
One of the landmark decisions given by National Commission was in the case of Bhupesh Khurana & Others  Vs. Vishawa Buddha Parishad,Vol II(2001) CPJ 74 (NC)where the question raised was whether imparting education for consideration is service under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The facts of the case were that Vishwa BudhaParishad an educational institute, had advertised in the national newspapers inviting applications from students for admission in BDS Course. The Parishad wrote that the College was affiliated "under Magadh University, Bihar, and Dental Council of India, New Delhi".
The students in bonafide and good faith, accepted the information of the Parishad as authentic and correct and sought admission in the BDS Course and paid a substantial amount as demanded by this educational institute under various heads. They attended their classes regularly for full session. However, the eleven complainant students got worried when the University examinations due to be held were not in sight. The complainants along with their parents, made enquiry form this educational institute about the reasons why the annual examination was not conducted in time by the Magadh University. In spite of number of requests and reminders made by the complainants, no date-sheet for examinations was declared. The complainants lastly, approached the Governing Authority and they came to know that the college was neither affiliated to Magadh University nor recognized by the Dental Council of India and there by unable to hold the examinations. Complainants alleging to have suffered irreparable loss and injury because of such acts of this educational institute filed a complaint before National Commission claiming compensation to the tune of Rs. 1,21,94,000/-.
The College pleaded that they had taken all the possible steps for getting the recognition of the college. In spite of its efforts the affiliation could not be obtained for the reason beyond their control this educational institute. The reason for not conducting the examination was on account of the delay on the part of Dental Council of India to carry out its inspection. 
Rejecting contentions of the opposite party the National Commission was of the view that the information given in the advertisement that the college was affiliated to  Magadh University and is approved by the Dental Council of India could be taken by a common person to mean that the college had been given recognition by the Dental Council of India and was affiliated to the Magadh University.
The National Commission laid down that imparting education by an educational institution for consideration falls within the ambit of 'Service' as defined in the C.P. Act. Also that, fees was paid by students for services to be rendered by way of imparting education by the educational institution. The complainants had hired the services of the respondent for consideration so they were consumers as defined in the C.P. Act. Therefore, the Commission directed the college to refund the admission fees paid by the students at the time of admission with interest at the rate of 12% p.a. from the date of receipt of the fees till the date of payment and also directed the institute to pay Rs. 20,000/- to each student for compensation for mental agony and harassment.
Parents and students, should therfore, always check the details of the institute or college and the course in which they are seeking admission and don't fall prey to misleading advertisements. You have the right as a consumer for a refund of fees if you find that the educational institute has been deficient in its service. For further details you can check the website of UGC or AICTE to find out whether the University or college in which you are seeking admission is recognised or not.
(The author is a consumer affairs expert. e-mail : sheetal_kpr@hotmail.com
Views expressed are personal)
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