Rajinder Kumar Goyal, Member
1. The instant appeal has been filed by the appellants/opposite parties against the order dated 24.7.2019 passed by District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (in short, “the District Forum”), whereby the complaint filed by the respondent/complainant, under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was allowed and OPs/appellants were directed to refund 50% of the amount paid by complainant/respondent to OPs/appellants during three years. The complainant/respondent was further entitled to Rs. 5,000 as compensation for mental agony and harassment and Rs. 3,000 as costs of litigation expenses. The OPs/appellants were also directed to deposit Rs. 5,000 in Legal Aid Fund of this Consumer Forum for deficiency in service and unfair trade practice.
2. It would be apposite to mention that hereinafter the parties will be referred, as have been arrayed before the District Forum.
Facts of the Complaint
3. Brief facts, as averred in the complaint are that son of complainant namely Master Bhagya Nijhawan studied in Cambridge International School Banga in Nursery in 2016-17 Session, K.G-1 in 2017-18 Session, KGII in 2018-19 session. The complainant paid Rs. 1,75,000 as fees to Opposite parties (in short “OPs”)/school regularly as per rules and regulations of school in all three years. Further stated that she admitted her son to the OP-school for better future of her son, but the school failed to give proper education as per requisite standards to her son. In the report card, school was showing good results, but in actual it was not so. The fact came to her knowledge when she tried to get her son admitted to another school and admission test was conducted there, but her son failed in that test. Thereafter, complainant contacted Principal of OPs school in this regard, but the Principal stated that this is not possible that a student of their school is not competent to quality the test. She further replied that staff members of their school are very competent and status of their school than other schools is very high and the Principal misbehaved with the complainant. After that, she approached the Proprietor of the said school, but he also misbehaved with her and refused to accept any responsibility. She alleged that due to this act of OPs, she faced lot of inconvenience and harassment. The act and conduct of the OPs is full of negligence, deficiency in service and as such, complainant filed consumer complaint before the District Forum with a prayer for directing OPs to refund the amount of Rs. 1,75,000 paid as fees, besides to pay Rs. 1,00,000 as compensation for mental harassment and inconvenience suffered by her.
4. Upon notice, opposite parties appeared and filed their joint reply, whereby OPs contested the complaint by taking preliminary objection that education is not a commodity and cannot be defined as service so the complainant is not a consumer. The complaint is not legally maintainable and complainant has no locus standi or cause of action to file the complaint. On merits, OPs averred that OP No. 1 had been receiving only prescribed fee and other charges, no excessive or exorbitant fee or charges were obtained from complainant. The result card of her son was supplied to her as and when same was prepared. OPs were not aware as to whether her son appeared in some test for admission to some other school. It has been denied that school/OPs expressed their inability regarding proper teaching to the students. Further alleged that OP No. 1/School was established in Session 2013- 14 with strength of 329 students and thereafter every year an additional class was added and presently it is upto 10+2 school with an effective strength of 1490 students, which was most likely to achieve target of 1550 students in the current session. OP No. 1 School is well reputed institute of the area with most reasonable charges. During stay of three years, neither son of the complainant nor complainant ever expressed any dissatisfaction with the work and conduct of the staff. Rest all other averments of the complainant were denied by OPs and prayed for dismissal of the complaint.
Evidence of the Parties
5. Learned Counsel for the complainant tendered into evidence her affidavit as Ex.CW-1 along with documents, copy of aadhar card as Ex.C-1, copies of reports cards Ex.C-2 to Ex.C-4, copies of receipts Ex.C-5 to Ex.C-11 and closed the evidence. On the other hand, OPs tendered into evidence affidavit of Ms. Sonia Walia, Principal of OPSchool as R-1 and closed the evidence.
Finding of the District Forum
6. The District Forum, which after going through the record and hearing learned Counsel on behalf of parties, allowed the complaint, vide impugned order. Hence, this appeal filed by the appellants/opposite parties with a prayer to set aside the impugned order.
Contention of the parties
7. We have heard learned Counsel for both the parties and have gone through the record of the case.
8. Counsel for appellants/opposite parties argued that education is not a commodity and cannot be defined as service so complainant is not a consumer. The complaint is not legally maintainable and complainant has no locus standi or cause of action to file the complaint. No excessive or exorbitant fee or charges were obtained from complainant. OPs are not aware as to whether her son appeared in some test for admission to some other school. During stay of three years, neither son of the complainant nor complainant ever expressed any dissatisfaction with the work and conduct of the staff. There is no deficiency in service or unfair trade practice on the part of OPs. The District Forum without taking into consideration the above facts, allowed the complaint. As such the order of District Forum is liable to be set aside and the complaint filed by the complainant is liable to be dismissed.
9. Per contra, learned Counsel for respondent/complainant argued that the District Forum has allowed the complaint after completely verifying the evidence available on the record. There is no illegality and infirmity in the order passed by the District Forum and there is no need of any kind of interference in the order passed by the District Forum. It has been prayed to dismiss the appeal.
Consideration of Contentions
10. We have given our thoughtful consideration to the contentions raised by the parties. We have also thoroughly gone through the record of the case as well as order passed by District Forum.
11. Before discussing the issue on merits, the first issue is to decide whether the respondent/complainant is a ‘consumer’ under the Act or not. In a recent judgment of the Larger Bench of the Hon’ble National Commission in C.C. No. 261 of 2012 titled as Manu Solanki & Ors. v. Vinayaka Mission University, I (2020) CPJ 210 (NC), along with bunch of cases decided on 20.1.2020 while relying upon judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court in P.A. Inamdar and Ors. v. State of Maharashtra and Ors., reported in VI (2005) SLT 423=(2005) 6 SCC 537, has held in para No. 51 as under:
“51. In view of the foregoing discussion, we are of the considered opinion that the institutions rendering education including vocational courses and activities undertaken during the process of pre-admission as well as post-admission and also imparting excursion tours, picnics, extra co-curricular activities, swimming, sport, etc. except coaching institutions, will, therefore, not be covered under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”
12. In the instant case, the appellants/OPs are an educational school affiliated with Central Board of Secondary Education (a statutory body, for imparting educa
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tion upto 10+2 standards). Therefore, in view of the above judgment of the Hon’ble National Commission the respondent/complainant cannot be considered as a Consumer of OP-School. 13. Sequel to the above discussions, the appeal is allowed and the order of the District Forum is set aside. The complaint is dismissed as not maintainable. 14. Amounts of Rs. 25,500 and Rs. 75,000 were deposited by the appellants in this case. Both these amounts, along with interest which has accrued thereon, if any, shall be remitted by the registry to the appellants/opposite parties, whosoever deposited, by way of a crossed cheque/demand draft after the expiry of 45 days of the sending of certified copy of the order to it. 15. The appeal could not be decided within the statutory period due to heavy pendency of Court cases. Appeal allowed.