Case Analysis: Sreedharan Nair N. vs Registrar, University Of Kerala

Introduction:-

               The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) is a quasi-judicial body established in 1988 under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. Respected Justice R K Agrawal, a former Supreme Court of India judge, is the current chairman of the panel. The consumer courts established in the country are to deal with disputes and conflicts that a consumer faces when they believe that their rights are violated. The case of Sreedharan Nair N. vs Registrar, University of Kerala, was an appeal that countered the order of the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, in the year 1994. 

Facts of the case:-

               The appellant, Mr. Sreedharan N, was pursuing his 3-year LL.B course from the Kerala Law Academy from 1987 to 1990. After passing his exams for the entire 3-year course, he had paid a fee along with an application, to receive his Certificate in the year 1990. After following the necessary procedure, the University had neglected to provide him with his passing certificate. Turns out, the University was still contemplating whether to recognize the qualifying examination that the complainant had written, which was the B.G.L. Degree Examination of the Mysore University, to pursue the 3-year course from their Kerala Law Academy, as per the letter posted to him dated 23rd July 1991. Regularisation of his LL.B. examination and issuance of provisional certificates and other documents in connection with it could only be considered if his qualifying degree from the University of Mysore was recognised. 

The appellant complained that the opposing party had created a vexatious delay in the issuance of a certificate for which the fees had been paid. He was denied the opportunity to work for a living due to the respondent’s inept performance. The appellant pleaded that he be awarded his provisional certificate with a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for his loss of work opportunities, earnings, and distress he faced during the meantime. 

The University was still debating whether or not to recognise Mysore University’s B.G.L. degree. The Academic Council of the University after much discussion declared that the LL.B Certificate was not to be released since his B.G.L. degree wasn’t recognized by the Kerala Law Academy. 

Contention of the Appellant:-

                As per the contention of the plaintiff, the Kerala University did not dissent or disapprove the appellant’s application when joining the 3-year LL.B course nor during the tenure of his studies in that University. He was permitted to give his examinations in all 3 years and was also declared pass every year. The University neglected to inform him about the validity of his qualifying examination for his LL.B degree. He has spent his time and efforts in completing the degree but was not able to practice anywhere, due to the default on the respondent’s side in issuing his certificate. Lastly, he contended that if the University fails to provide his certificate, he asks to be paid Rs. 5 Lakhs for the losses that he has faced because of the University’s failed duty.

Contention of the Respondent:- 

                 Now, as per the contention of the respondent, the Academic Council took a stand that irrespective of the actions performed by them, or lack thereof, this problem of issuance of the certificate does not come under the ambit of a “consumer dispute”. Further, they went on to say that the appellant does not fall under the definition of a “consumer” stated under section 2(d) of the Consumer Protection Act.

Analysis:-

                 Education is a form of service from the part of the University to the students. If we go by that definition, the appellant, Mr. Sreedharan N, has acquired the educational services that the University has to offer him, similar to how a “consumer” acquires services, by due payments of money from his side, At the time of Admission, it is the onus of the University, to scrutinise each application that they receive, before they admit students to the college. Regardless of the number of applications that they receive, a University is responsible for itself to at least go through the names and backgrounds of the educational institutions that have imparted education to their applicants. If the University has no problem with the applicant’s previous educational institutions during the admission, a student can only expect the same after passing out from his University. The same applies to Universities issuing certificates after their students complete the course. 

As per the definition of the term “ deficiency” given under section 2(g) of the Consumer Protection Act, it is said that, “Deficiency” means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming, or inadequacy in the quality, nature, and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service.”

Having said that, I believe that the University is at fault and is liable to compensate the appellant.

Judgement:-

            The court held that the University failed to meet its obligations towards its students, however, the appellant’s claim to receive the provisional certificate cannot be allowed, since it is up to the Academic Council of the University to make decisions on the recognition of the courses and qualifying exams. It was said that the commission has no right to issue any directives in this regard. Having said that, to compensate for the losses faced by the appellant, the respondents were directed to pay Rs. 50,000, which upon failing, the appellant is entitled to claim interest at the rate of 12% p.a., with which the appeal was dismissed. 

References:-

  1. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1672055/
  2. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/cpa-covers-university-services-also/articleshow/511086841.cms 

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