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Education is not a commodity; fee to be refunded if student quits: Court to school

Coastal Digest 2017-11-09 12:59:58

Bengaluru, Nov 9: “Education is not a commodity but a pious service rendered to humanity," a city consumer court told a Bengaluru school, asking it to pay Rs 51,000 to a parent who had pulled his daughter out of the school's kindergarten after paying an admission fee of Rs 55,000.

It all began after Brookefield resident Thejas John Philipose decided to withdraw a kindergarten admission he had secured for his daughter at Euro School Foundation, Whitefield, by paying an admission fee of Rs 55,000 on Nov 7, 2015.

Stating that he was transferred on work to Kerala and was relocating, Philipose cancelled the admission for academic year 2016 in March itself and demanded a refund of the fee paid. The authorities, however, refused to refund the so-called `non-refundable' admission fee.

A helpless Philipose approached the Bengaluru Rural and Urban 1st Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum on April 29, 2016 with a complaint against the school authorities.

The court heard arguments from the parent and the education institution represented by its principal. While Philipose demanded a refund, alleging un fair trade practices by the school, the Euro School representative averred that Philipose had signed a declaration, stating that 'fees once paid will not be refunded' before seeking admission for his daughter and that the clause was clearly mentioned in the school admission brochure. The litigation lasted nearly 18 months, at the end of which the court came down heavily on Euro School Foundation.

It asserted that a school brochure and its conditions can't be treated as an agreement or a contract for the admission of a child. "Education is not something one should sell in the open market, whereas providing it is a pious service rendered to humanity," the court said.

It added that a child's school admission is not a business transaction and thus a signature on a declaration of `non-refundable fee' doesn't hold value, especially in a situation where a parent has sought refund well in advance before the commencement of the academic year. In Philipose's case, the refund was requested in March 2016 while KG classes were scheduled to commence only in June.

The court ordered Euro School Foundation to refund Rs 50,000 from the admission fee paid after deducting a sum of Rs 5,000 towards school administration charges. The school was further asked to pay the parent Rs 1,000 towards litigation charges.