An independent authority to deal with complaints pertaining to Examination Boards and universities is the need of the hour

Every year we come across instances of examination boards putting out wrong results, mixing up mark sheets, making mistakes in the computation of marks or failing to publish results, and their subsequent apathy to the plight of affected students. We have also heard of students going to the extent of ending their life.

It is unfortunate that such deficiencies pertaining to Educational Boards are not included within the Jurisdiction of the Consumer Fora. Recently, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that an Educational Board is not a service provider and a student writing an examination is not a consumer. Mohd. A.M. Abel Karim filed a complaint against a university for not awarding him the PhD degree, despite him being registered with the university for the course for three years and having submitted the thesis papers. According to him, the university cancelled his registration for the course without any justification or sufficient cause or even informing him about the fate of his course. Alleging this as deficiency in service on the part of the university, the complainant had sought compensation to the tune of Rs. 10 lakh, which was held to be not maintainable by the Commission.

The Commission relied on the preceding Order of the Supreme Court in Bihar School Examination Board Vs. Suresh Prasad Sinha, decided in September, 2009, that literally took away the right of students to take Examination Boards to the Consumer Fora. The Apex Court held that the Bihar Examination Board was a statutory body that discharged its function in a non-commercial manner. And thus, when the Board conducts an examination, it does not offer its “services” to any candidate, nor does a student who participates in the examination conducted by the Board avails himself of any service from the Board for a consideration.

On the other hand, the Court observed that the candidate who participates in the examination is a person who requests the Board to test him as to whether he has imbibed sufficient knowledge to be fit to be declared as having successfully completed the said course of education. The Apex Court went on to state that in the course of conduct of the examination or evaluation of answer scripts or furnishing of mark sheets or certificates, there might be some negligence, omission or deficiency but this would not convert the Board into a service provider for a consideration nor make the examinee a consumer who could prefer a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act. Hence, it was decided that the complaint under the Act was not maintainable against the Board.

In view of the circumstances, it is important that the Government considers setting up an independent authority that would deal exclusively with complaints pertaining to Examination Boards / universities. This would be a giant step in protecting student interests.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)