The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Short of the mark

Year after year, we read shocking reports of examination boards making mistakes in the computation of marks or announcement of results. And also of the helplessness of students, who are victims of such negligence. Well, the good news is that students can now hold examination boards liable for their mistakes.

Even though the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 brought all paid services under the scrutiny of consumer courts, certain unfortunate orders of the apex consumer court had denied students and parents the right to seek compensation for deficient services rendered by universities and examination boards. In 1996, for example, in the case of Chairman, Board of Examinations, Madras vs Mohideen Abdul Kader, the apex consumer court had said that issues pertaining to examinations conducted by boards and universities did not come under the jurisdiction of the consumer courts. As far as other services rendered by educational institutions were concerned, it was yet to decide on the applicability of the consumer protection law to them.

Then in September 2000, in the case of Bhupesh Khurana vs Vishwa Buddha Parishad (OP No. 168 of 1994), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission finally held that universities and educational institutions were liable for negligent services under the Consumer Protection Act.

However, it did not make any reference to examination-related issues and three years later, in the case of Parveen Rani vs Punjab School Education Board (RP No. 2268 of 2000), it re-affirmed its earlier view that consumer courts cannot question examination boards. Subsequently, in the case of Amrit Paul vs Chairman, Punjab School Education Board, too (RP No. 556 of 2003), it reiterated this point.

Then finally last year, in the case of Board of Secondary Education vs Sasmita Moharana (FA No. 15 of 2007) the apex consumer court upheld an order of the lower consumer court, awarding compensation to a student for the loss of an academic year on account of the wrong declaration of marks. The case pertained to the student being declared as failed in the English paper. The state commission had awarded her Rs 10,000 as compensation, which had been questioned by the board. Dismissing the board’s appeal, the apex consumer court held that examination boards, too, came under the purview of consumer courts.

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