New Delhi: It is
unfair for a university or college to withhold a student's degree
to recover dues, the apex consumer court has ruled and said it
would be preferable for the institution to move a civil court to
get its money back.
"Such kind of practice is not fair," the National Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commission said in a recent ruling in
connection with a case involving Sushith, a student pursuing an MD
degree in biochemistry, the Manipal University and the Kasturba
Medical College in Karnataka.
The court directed the university and the college to pay Rs.10,000
as compensation to Sushith, 32, before Feb 6, 2013.
The commission's Presiding Member V.B. Gupta also questioned why
the college and the university did not move a civil court to
recover the alleged dues of Rs.9.3 lakh from Sushith, a resident
of Mangalore, whose degree was withheld.
The case reached the national commission after the university and
the college appealed against an order of the Karnataka State
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Bangalore, favouring
Sushith's degree was withheld for allegedly breaching an agreement
with the university and the college that required him to serve
there for five years after completing the course -- failing which
he was supposed to repay the entire tuition fee whose burden was
borne by them.
The national commission said: "Even if it is held for a while
that...the student is liable to refund the tuition fee, the remedy
is still open to the university and college to recover the same by
approaching an appropriate civil court."
"When such an equally efficacious remedy is readily available to
them, they cannot illegally retain the said degree certificate,"
Gupta said in the order, a copy of which is with IANS.
Sushith said in his complaint that he took admission to
post-graduate degree course in MD in biochemistry for academic
year 2005-06 and passed the course in 2008.
The college was required to issue him a degree certificate
confirmed by the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. But despite
repeated requests, it refused to issue the certificate and
withheld it, he said.
The college dean and the university registrar said Sushith's
original degree certificate was retained as a lien as he owed
Rs.9.3 lakh as tuition fee and stipend, which they paid during his
They said that they could not be forced to provide the certificate
for which they had not received any consideration.
The university and the college claimed that Sushith executed an
agreement with them May 23, 2005, along with two sureties but he
failed to abide by the conditions incorporated in it and remained
away from duty after the course.
He was supposed to start serving in the college from Dec 1, 2008,
but allegedly stopped reporting to office from Dec 9, 2008, they
The apex consumer commission dismissed their plea and said:
"Petitioners have placed on record copy of 'service agreement'
dated May 23, 2005, executed between the parties. This agreement
does not contain any condition or clause by virtue of which the
university/college is entitled to retain the degree/certificate of
Sushith as a lien till he performs the terms of the agreement."
Endorsing the findings of the Dakshina Kannada District Consumer
Disputes Redressal Forum, Mangalore, and the state commission,
Gupta said: "The district forum has properly considered both oral
and documentary evidence and rightly come to the conclusion.
Retaining of the degree certificate is otherwise compelling the
complainant to serve under them. Such kind of practice is not
"The appellant (university and college) have failed to show before
this commission that the impugned order under appeal is erroneous,
unjust and improper and that it suffers from legal infirmity, is
unsustainable in the law and there is error apparent on the face
of record requiring our interference. Appeal appears to be devoid
of merit," said Gupta.
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