The City Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has directed the management of an engineering college to return with interest the admission fee collected from an NRI student.

Shivakumar Behraj, a U.S. citizen, paid in March 2007 $5,000 (Rs. 2.15 lakh) towards admission of his son to the B.E. course in People’s Education Society (PES) college. He then approached the management to return the amount stating his son’s inability to join the course.

But the management, in its letter dated August 28, 2007, said it cannot refund the sum citing, an earlier email. The e-mail from the management asked Mr. Behraj to pay $ 5000 for getting admission during August 2007. It also mentioned that the admission was open on a first-come-first-served basis for eligible candidates.

Mr. Behraj filed a complaint before the 1st Additional Bangalore District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum seeking refund of the amount with 18 per cent interest and compensation of Rs.50,000.

The Secretary of the Society appeared before the Forum and contended that the course commenced on August 16, 2007 and the request for return of the amount was made on August 28. Hence they could not return the amount.

But the Forum found that the Society had not produced any document to show that the seat remained vacant throughout the 2007-08 academic year. The e-mail sent to Mr. Behraj did not state the last date for admission.

The Forum referred to a ruling of the National Consumer Commission that stated: “Should a student leave an educational institution after joining the course in it and if the seat is consequently filled by another candidate by the last date of its admission it must return the fee collected with appropriate deductions”.

The Forum pointed to the circular issued on the similar lines by the Visvesvaraiah Technological University in May 2007. The engineering college of the Society is affiliated to the University. It said: “In the event of a student withdrawing before the commencement of the course, the wait-listed candidate should be given admission against the vacant seat. The entire fee collected from the student, after deduction of processing fee of not more than Rs. 1,000 shall be refunded.”

President of the Forum H.M. Bajentri and Members – C.V. Rajamma and Keshav Rao Patil – on August 6, 2009 directed the Society to refund Rs.2.14 lakh with nine per cent interest from August 28, 2007. It also asked the Society to pay costs of Rs.2,000. The Society should comply with the order within eight weeks.