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Withholding original academic certificates in lieu of course fee unfair, rules Karnataka High Court

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College wanted student who left management seat engineering course midway to pay for full course.

An engineering college in Mangaluru refused to return the original academic certificates of a student who left the course midway. Since he had joined the college on a management quota seat, it wanted the entire course amount to be paid as it would suffer a loss otherwise. The student approached the High Court which has ruled that the college may recover the money legally but not by refusing to return his original marks cards and certificates. It directed the college to return it immediately.  Jilbin Joseph, 20, was a student of Srinivas Institute of Technology under the Viswesvaraya Technological University (VTU). He approached the HC seeking a direction to the college to return his original certificates of SSLC, Plus 2 and transfer certificates. He had joined BE computer science and engineering for the academic year 2013-14 under management quota. He met with an accident on May 24, 2014.

He had fallen down the stairs and fractured his right leg and knee. After undergoing surgery, he missed the classes and could not subsequently continue in the course.  Joseph sought from the college his original documents as he was not in a position to continue the engineering course. When the college refused, he approached VTU which directed the college to return his documents. When it was not done, he approached the HC. Justice AS Bopanna heard the case. The counsel for the college argued that when a student under management quota leaves the course midway, it cannot admit any other student to that seat. This would cause financial loss to it. Therefore, unless Joseph makes good the said loss, his original documents would not be returned. An earlier case (Smruthy BS Vs DA Pandu Memorial Dental College) was cited in which a division bench of the court had said that the management had the right to withhold the documents to ensure the fee payable for the entire course was recovered.

However, Justice Bopanna cited another case in the HC (WP 4999/2014) in which the judge had ruled that the management had the right to recover the amount only in the manner known to law and not by withholding documents. Justice Bopanna said, “This court cannot ignore the circumstance which is beyond the control of the student and lay down a straightjacket formula in all cases. There can be cases where though the student may want to continue the course, he/she would not be in a position to do so for several other reasons.” The court said that when a student who is unable, for valid reasons, to continue his course “His/her entire future cannot be hijacked by holding him/her to ransom.” The court said Joseph had undergone pain and agony due to the accident and was unable to continue the course. “Such discontinuance from the course cannot be considered as willful discontinuance,” it said and “If the documents are also withheld only to recover the amount, even the prospects of the student to face life would be defeated.” Directing the college to return Joseph’s documents, the court said, “the appropriate course in such circumstance would be to return the documents, while the management would still have the liberty of initiating appropriate proceedings for recovery of the amount.” The recovery process would be according to law, the court ordered. –  Courtesy


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