Image source - https://bit.ly/3zbeNg9

This article is written by Siddharth Dhabhai.

Introduction

In this modern era where education is not anything less than a necessity, the base for all sorts of development of an individual, the sector has become one of the largest sectors in India and also the most important. Education is the base for the development of the nation it also plays an important role in making a person more disciplined as well as aware. The Right to Education Act passed by Government in the year 2009 also focuses on the promotion and spread of education among all the people of the country irrespective of caste, colour, creed, sex etc.

According to this act, all the schools including the private schools will give reservations to the students of weaker sections of the society so that they can get compulsory education. 25 percent of total seats are to be reserved in all the schools according to this act. The right to education is also a fundamental right mentioned in Article 21 of our Constitution. In the current scenario. Education sector has become dominant over all the sectors and has the potential to transform the population of the nation. It provides employment to more than 15 crore people making it one of the largest sectors in terms of provision of employment. Also, we cannot deny the fact that it is one of the highest profit-making sectors.

Being the most important sector it is quite obvious that sometimes it will fail to provide the services of the prescribed standard, quality, type, characteristic etc. In such circumstances the beneficiary of service i.e. the students will remain unsatisfied, therefore it became a necessity to include the educational sector under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act so that the students being the consumer of service get the privilege of being heard by the Consumer Redressal Agency. 

Analysis of educational services and possible deficiencies

Education is one of the most important sectors which is responsible for eliminating exploitation, ignorance and superstitions of people and enhancing their qualities both physical and mental. It as a service acts as the important pillar of the economy as it provides employment to a large number of people in the country as well as it also instils the criteria in its consumers which is required by them to get jobs of any particular type by educating them. 

With the increased advancement and urbanisation the need to become a well aware and well-informed consumer has also increased as consumers have become more prone to the unscrupulous, unfair, malafide practices of the business firms as well as other institutions providing services of a particular sort.

Due to liberalised foreign policy, it can be seen that many big foreign institutions have also entered the Indian market because they see it as an opportunity to earn high profits, such institutions are capable of providing better services than the other pre-existing institutions even at lower rates, therefore leading to the benefit of the consumers. But the increased competition has increased the chances of exploitation of consumers also. In such a situation government intervention is required so that the consumers remain safeguarded and also enjoy the best services provided by such institutions.

Students make payment in terms of fees in order to avail of the services of educational institutions therefore it becomes the duty of the educational institutions to provide the services of prescribed standards, characteristics etc. If we look from this approach then since the students have paid consideration for availing the services they fulfil the requirements of this act to claim the status of a consumer and therefore in case of any deficiency from the side of educational institution will fall under the ambit of this act and the students being the consumer will be given the right to seek redressal.

Possible Deficiencies

  1. Failure in finishing the course on time – Sometimes the institution promises their students that they will complete the course in a prescribed time. 
  2. Unable to provide the prescribed facilities – Sometimes the educational institutions make promises of providing some amenities such as access to the library, if they fail to provide such amenities it is considered a deficiency in service.
  3. Admission of children above the sanctioned seats – If the institutions give admission to students over and above the sanctioned seats as a result of which the students fail to get seats for the examination then it is a deficiency.
  4. Asking for fees even when educational services are not rendered – If the institution asks for fees even when they are not rendering the prescribed educational services then also it is regarded as an unfair trade practice.

Types of educational institutions under the ambit of this Act

One important thing to be cleared while discussing deficiency in educational services is that against whom action can be maintained if the educational services provided fall short of expectations of the consumer. For this, we need to understand two concepts ie Contract of Service and Contract for Service.

  • Contract of Service – It refers to an agreement entered by a company with its employees to avail of his/ her services. The individual who enters into the contract is an employee of the company. This type of individual is entitled to the benefits that the employees of the company receive or are entitled to from time to time during the course of employment. The company enjoys complete control and authority over such a person, who is bound to show adherence to the instructions.
  • Contract for Service – It is an agreement entered by a company with a third party for availing its services. The third-party enjoys his / her discretion with regards to whether to provide service or not and the method of providing service. This third party is not entitled to the benefits that the employees of the company receive or are entitled to from time to time. 

Contract for services falls under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act. Educational services can also be seen in this relation as students as the beneficiary of educational services have no control over the conduct and method of teaching adopted by the staff of the institutions. The teachers of such institutions use their professional skills while teaching and the student have no control over them. Therefore all educational institutions come under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act. But it must be kept in mind that the private tutors do not fall under Contract for Services rather fall under Contract of Services because the student may practice control over the method in which he/ she is taught. 

The private tutor is bound to teach only what his/ her recipient of the service demands unlike in the case of big educational institutions like schools and colleges following the guidelines of concerned boards and UGC respectively. Therefore we can say only big institutions fall under the purview of this Act.

The decisions are given by the Supreme Court and National Commission in many of such disputes seem to be contradictory to each other in some cases students are considered as a consumer and in some they are not considered. The students fulfil the definition of consumer and shall be entitled to seek redressal under this act. There is a need that the Apex Court gives a required judgement so that the status of a student as a consumer becomes clear.

Important Cases

  • Bhupesh Khurana And Ors. vs Vishwa Buddha Parishad And Ors 

The petitioner, in this case, alleged that the respondent University in its prospectus falsely claimed that it is affiliated to Dental Council India and is being governed by Magadha University, Patna, Bihar even when there was no such declaration received by the University and the claim was false.

The court in this case held that the act of imparting education by an educational institute comes under the definition of service as per the ‘Consumer Protection Act. Had there been no service provided, there would have been no consideration paid on part of the student. Therefore the student was entitled to seek redressal for the deficiency suffered by him in this case.

  • S.D. Seth Mathews And Anr. vs Mahatama Gandhi University, Kerela

In this case, the university cancelled the private registration of a pre-degree certificate after two years of registration because it denied recognising the qualifying exam(SSLC). Due to this, the student suffered a loss of two years and the court held the university guilty.

  • Sonal Matapurkar V. Niglingappa Institute 

In this case, the Dental Institute allowed the students to take admission over and above the sanctioned number. The University declined to let them sit for the examination. The redressal commission held that it was a deficiency on the part of the administration system of the Institution and a decision was given in the favour of the complainant. 

  • Mayank Tiwari vs FIITjEE Ltd

In this case, the complainant asked for a refund of his fees because he wanted to leave the coaching due to some reasons but the institution denied it. It was held by the forum that the institutions cannot refuse to make a refund if the student wants to quit the coaching therefore the court directed it to pay a compensation of not less than 1.46 lakh deposited as fees by the complainant along with the litigation cost of 7,000 rupees.

  • Jai Kumar Mittal v. Brilliant Tutorials

In this case, the complainant took the coaching of civil service examination. The complainant paid fees of 4800 rupees for the study material. It was found by him that the study materials offered by the institution had several defects and was not of the promised standards. The commission directed the institution to pay 30 thousand as a fine as well as a refund of 4800 rupees.

  • Birla Institute of Technology & Science v. Abhishek Mengi

The National Commission held that taking fees and that too without providing the services for it is an unfair trade practice.

  • Puneet Sharan vs Vinod Kharche

Executive director of institute IIMT Delhi gave admission to students by falsely representing that the institution is affiliated to Global Information Technology, United States of America and conducted fake examinations. It was held that since the director failed to provide services as promised he was entitled to pay compensation as well as a refund of the fees to the students.

  • The University of Kerala vs Molly Frances

It was held in this case that the college has the duty to publish the result of revaluation before the commencement of the next examinations. Delay in the publication of any such information for more than 2 years will amount to deficiency of service. Rupees 10 thousand was awarded for the mental harassment of the complainant.

  • Buddhist Mission Dental College and Hospital v. Bhupesh Khurana

In this case, the appellant had published an advertisement in which it had made false claims inviting students for admission to Degree Course of Bachelor of Dental Surgery. It was held by Supreme Court that the college was neither affiliated nor recognised to provide education. This was treated as a deficiency in services.

  • Bihar School Examination Board v. Suresh Prasad Sinha, (2009) 

In this case, Bihar School Examination Board issued the same roll number to 3 students for their board exam, a case was filed by the aggrieved party who alleged deficiency on the part of the Board. However, Apex Court held that provision of roll no, issuance of certificates, maintenance of records of the students come under the statutory functions and not under the ambit of this case

  • P.T. Koshy v. Ellen Charitable Trust

In this case, it was held by SC that educational institutions do not provide any form of service, therefore, an action cannot be maintained against them in Consumer Protection Act also the Consumer Redressal Commissions do not have the jurisdiction to entertain such cases. This judgement proved contradictory to other judgements of the courts and commissions and faced much criticism also.

Conclusion

These days when the parents are very serious regarding the career and education of their children and give priority to the education of their children over other things, the educational institutions have taken it as an opportunity to make more and more of profits by charging huge amounts as fees from the parents. They often fail to provide the services of the standards desired by the students after the payment of fees. As a result of this many students get exploited by such malpractices of the educational institutions, the main reason behind this is that people in our country are least bothered about the rights given to them.

In such a condition there is a need to impart consumer education so that people come forward and raise voice against such practices. The Redressal Agencies must also come forward and give judgements in favor of the students in such cases and the courts shall try not to give contradictory judgements where in some cases students are considered consumers and in some they are not. Therefore it can be concluded that rapid growth of the Educational Sector has made it a neccessity to supervise their activities through this act. 

Bibliography

Books Refered

  • The Law of Torts, Consumer Protection Act by M.N. Shukla, Central Law Agency

Other Websources

  • https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/tag/deficiency-of-service/
  • https://www.amicusx.com/post/deficiency-of-services-in-the-education-sector-under-the-consumer-protection-act-1986
  • https://blog.ipleaders.in/can-sue-educational-institution-consumer-protection-act/

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here