SC To Decide Whether Consumers Laws Govern Educational Services Or Not

Considering that there's been no clarification on whether educational facilities fall within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act even 3 ½ decades after it had been enacted, the Supreme Court's verdict to investigate the subject in detail and bring certainty to the topic is quite welcome.

It's also worth noting that the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 amended the 1986 legislation, placing a stronger focus on enforcing and preserving consumer rights, and the newer provisions must now be considered when reading the statute.

Much more importantly, the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 establishes a regulatory organization, the Central Consumer Protection Council, to safeguard customers' rights, which is all the more incentive to guarantee that academic programs are included.

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Problems related to Examination, like mistakes in answer scripts and scorecards generated by shoddy assessment and calculation, slip into the 1st group; unfair practices, like inaccurate and defamatory ads, slip into the 2nd group; and a lack of protection awareness in academic institutions, arising in fatal crashes, slip down into the 3rd group.

Despite some early hesitation regarding topics related to examination, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Committee brought academic institutions to account on a variety of problems and granted compensation for the damage and suffering suffered by children and parents, the most noteworthy of which was the payment of damages to the parent of a three-year-old young girl who disappeared in a septic system held open on the university grounds. The Commission said emphatically that the safety of children was an essential component of academic institutions' services.

The Supreme Court's legal interpretation, on the other hand, quickly started to influence the National Commission's choices, and the Supreme Court's differing opinions further contributed to the complexity. For instance, in Hospital Vs Bhupesh Khurana and Buddhist Mission Dental University (2009), the Supreme Court not only confirmed the National Commission's decision but also significantly increased the compensation paid to 11 learners who had missed 2 years at university due to the institution's misrepresentation of its accreditation and connections.

Nevertheless, in PT Koshy Vs Ellen Charitable Trust (2012), the Supreme Court of India declared clearly that learning is not a product and academic establishments do not provide any form of service, and hence such disputes cannot be heard by the consumer court underneath the CP Act, 1986. It had previously been held in 2010 and 2009 that an examination authority performing its legal job was not a service supplier and that the test taker was not a customer.

The Apex Court, however, in P.Sreenivasulu Versus P.J Alexander (2015), reaffirmed that academic institutions are covered by the CP Act. It withdrew its stance in the P.T.Koshy lawsuit in 2017 in Gulshan versus Anupama College of Engineering.

Thus, once Manu Solanki and 8 others submitted a lawsuit against Vinayaka Mission College, a full panel of the National Commission analyzed the Supreme Court's rulings in depth and determined that all schools and universities and associated actions were beyond the CP Act's ambit, dismissing the case. For similar reasons, the father's claim for compensation for his kid's loss by sinking in a university swimming pool was denied.