Forum takes to task colleges that blackmail students

The Bangalore Urban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum came down heavily on private institutions that blackmail students into paying the entire course fee to get their original marks cards back to pursue other professional courses.

In one such case, the forum, headed by president P V Singari, took to task the New Horizon College of Engineering (NHCE) near Marathahalli for holding back the original marks card of an engineering student who wanted to join the medical stream. The college authorities made her to cough up Rs  3.60 lakh — the fee for all eight semesters — before returning her academic documents.

Ranjitha M, a resident of BTM Layout, had joined for engineering course at NHCE on August 8, 2017, by paying a fee of Rs 50,500. Principal Manjunatha demanded Rs 40,000 extra as donation, which she paid. She also submitted documents like SSLC, PUC marks cards, caste certificate, transfer certificate, conduct and study certificates.

Within a week after taking admission, Ranjitha got a medical seat at Sridevi Institute of Medical Science and Research Hospital at Tumakuru. She decided to quit engineering and requested the college authorities to cancel her admission and return her fee and donation amount of Rs 90,500, along with her documents.

The NHCE told her that the process would take 15-20 days. After a detailed discussion, the college started blackmailing Ranjitha and told her that it would not return the amount. Not just that, it asked her to pay an additional Rs 2.70 lakh to get her original documents back. As Ranjitha was keen on the medical seat, her father arranged the amount and paid the college Rs 2.70 lakh. Initially, the college did not give her any receipt for the amount paid, but relented after several visits. Ranjitha secured admission for medical course and later filed a case before the consumer forum against the NHCE for keeping her original documents, blackmailing her, demanding additional money, not issuing receipt etc, amounting to unfair trade practice.

The college submitted before the forum that it survives on students’ fees. It said Ranjitha had taken admission, attended classes and left the course, after which the seat fell vacant throughout the academic session, resulting in loss of revenue. The college argued that there was no deficiency of service as it had returned the documents after she cleared her dues.

The forum observed in its order that the Ministry of Human Resource Development and UGC had issued clear instructions to all institutions, including universities, that they should refund the entire amount to students by deducting only processing fee when they quit institutions for valid reasons. The institutions shall maintain a waiting list of students and when a student withdraws from the course, the waitlisted student should be given admission. In this case, the complainant left the institution within a week of commencement of course, and the college hadn’t shown that the particular seat was vacant for the entire academic year.

It was proven that the college had blackmailed the complainant and collected donation and failed to issue receipt despite being aware of the public notice issued by the UGC. The forum directed the NHCE, its principal and chair Mohan Manghnani to refund Rs 3,60,500 deducting Rs 5,000 as processing charges and with 12% interest per annum. It also directed the college to pay Rs 20,000 as compensation with a litigation cost of Rs 5,000 to the complainant.

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