Prospectus / Admission Brochure has force of law : HC

Prospectus1In a landmark Judgement, Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that a prospectus issued by the Institute has force of law and is binding on the student. In fact it also restricted the Writ Jurisdictions of High Court to say that even under Article 226 of Constitution of India, the High Court should strictly consider the terms of the prospectus and should not modify the same.

The petitioner was seeking quashing of order passed by the Punjab State Consumer Commission, Chandigarh vide which the appeal of the petitioner has been dismissed while upholding order by the Ludhiana District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, which concluded that  in view of Regulation 9(iii) of Prospectus issued by the Respondent-University, the petitioner was not entitled for the refund of fee of ` 10,000/-.

The Petitioner on being denied the relief of Refund of fee filed a complaint before the Forum filed on the ground of deficiency of service under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The said complaint was dismissed by the Forum on the ground that the petitioner had voluntarily decided not to join the college and there was no evidence that the seat had been filled up. The amount stood forfeited and therefore in view of the specific clause in the Prospectus, the complainant was not entitled for the refund of fee. The Petitioner carried forward his challenge to State Commission, where his Appeal was dismissed on similar grounds.

While disposing the Petition the High Court also justified the reliance upon Clause 9 (iii) of the Regulations saying that  the said clause is only meant to dissuade the students to seek admission in more than one institution thereby wasting seats depriving other students from admission.

The High Court also considered earlier judgement wherein while discussing the  scope and binding force of the provisions contained in the prospectus, the Courts have taken view that the prospectus issued for admission to a course, has the force of law and it was not open to alteration. It also relied on another Judgement which laid down a candidate will have to be taken to be bound by the information supplied in the admission form and cannot be allowed to take a stand that suits him at a given time. The High Court agreed with view that eligibility for admission to a Course has to be seen according to the prospectus issued before the Entrance Examination and that the admission has to be made on the basis of instructions given in the prospectus, having the force of law.

The High Court held that respondents cannot be held liable for any deficiency in service and the petitioner was not entitled for refund in terms of the above Clause of Prospectus. The High Court also pointed out that it has time and again been held that admission brochure or the prospectus has a force of law which is to be strictly followed.

Additionally, the High Court also pointed out that writ petition would not be maintainable in view of alternative remedy which was available to the petitioner under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 where under Section 19, the appeal would lie to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

The High Court proceeded to dismiss the Petition by saying that it is settled law that the provisions contained in the information brochure have the force of law and have to be strictly complied with. No modification can be made by the Court in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

EduLegaL View

Education Law and Policy

No doubt it is a good judgement and it is important that in a student-institute relationship, something has to be treated as sacrosanct and binding on both and undoubtedly, Prospectus is the most sacrosanct document.

However, there are many Institutions, which publish unfavourable terms in the prospectus in fine print, specially relating to refund of fees, jurisdiction, which are not specifically consented to by a student at the time of admission. Also, while taking admission, a student has legal disability to question such clause, so does it mean that an unreasonable clause, just because it is in prospectus, become undisputed truth.

I wish the High Court could have dealt with all such other issues, while laying down relating to prospectus.

Ravi Bhardwaj

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