“Educational certificates are not fixed deposit receipts”

Colleges cannot use educational qualification certificates, submitted by a student at the time of admission, as a bait to recover monetary dues when the student is about to leave the institution, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

Justice V. Ramasubramanian made the observation while allowing a writ petition filed by the mother of an engineering student. The judge said: “The certificates of the petitioner’s daughter represent her property. They cannot be retained by the college at any rate.

“Even if the college has any monetary claim, refusal to give the certificates is not the method by which the claim can be enforced.

There is no lien (a form of security interest granted over a property to secure the payment of debt or performance of some other obligation) on the certificates of the petitioner’s daughter.”

On the contention of the college that it could not afford to let a student leave the college midway without payment of fees for the entire duration of the course, the judge said that the case before him was not about the entitlement of the college to collect the balance fees.

It was about the refusal to return certificates submitted at the time of admission. “Those certificates are not like fixed deposit receipts on which banks claim a general lien in terms of Section 171 of the Contract Act,” he observed and directed the college to return them forthwith.

In her affidavit, the petitioner S. Muthukamatchi of Aranthangi in Pudukottai district said that her daughter joined the engineering college on payment of Rs. 39, 700 towards admission fee. However, after finding it difficult to travel about 55 kilometres every day, she decided to drop out and join another college.

The student also obtained the transfer certificate from the institution on September 17, 2012.

But the college refused to part with her certificates until she paid the fees for the entire duration of her course including the remaining period of the course.

Defending the claim made by the college, its counsel pointed out that as of now all engineering colleges in the State were bound to collect fees as determined by a high level committee, constituted by the State Government, on the basis of the facilities available in individual institutions.

Further, the institutions cannot admit students during the middle of an academic year. In such a situation, the colleges might incur a great loss if students were allowed to leave them midway without payment of fees for the full duration of the course, the counsel said.