A Chennai school has been asked by the apex consumer commission to refund Rs 25,000 that a child's father was "coerced" to pay as donation for its New Auditorium Project (NAP) to secure admissions for his daughter.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's (NCDRC) direction came after the child's father K Rajendran's plea against a Tamil Nadu State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's ruling by which his appeal against Chennai (North) district forum's order had been dismissed.
The district forum had dismissed Rajendran's complaint against Chennai's CSI Ewart Matriculation Higher Secondary School, saying he had paid the donation voluntarily and hence, no deficiency in service could be attributed to the school for not refunding the amount.
In his complaint, Rajendran had alleged that when he sought his second daughter's admission in the school, he was coerced to pay Rs 25,000 towards the institutes' NAP, in addition to which he was also asked to pay Rs 5,220 towards tuition fee and special fees, which included Rs 2,500 towards building fund.
Referring to a fee slip issued by the school to Rajendran when he had sought to admit his daughter there, the NCDRC said the document clearly showed that donation of Rs 25,000 for the NAP was a pre-condition for accepting the tuition fees.
The condition mentioned in the fee slip said "after the payment of NAP by DD and uniform by cash only, the fees will be accepted."
"...the element of coercion in collecting the 'donation' for the New Auditorium Project of the school is writ large on this document (fee slip).
"We partly allow the revision petition and direct the School (through its principal) to refund to the petitioner (K Rajendran) Rs 25,000 that it collected from him through coercion as a pre-requisite for admission of his second daughter to the LKG class in February, 2001. The school will also pay Rs 5,000 as cost to him," the bench presided by Member Anupam Dasgupta said.
Rajendran had later chosen not to admit his second daughter there and had sought refund of the donation amount, which the school had refused.
He had also alleged in his complaint that as a result of his seeking refund, his elder daughter who was studying in the same school had to be withdrawn from there and he had to incur additional expenses to get both his daughters admitted to another school.
Alleging deficiency in service on the part of the school, he had not only sought refund of the Rs 25,000 along with interest but also Rs two lakh as compensation for mental agony, hardship etc. and Rs 5,000 as cost of the complaint.
The school which did not appear before the apex consumer commission had earlier contested the complaint in the district forum saying that the sum of Rs 25,000 paid by Rajendran was a voluntary donation towards the NAP and had nothing to do with the regular fees and special fees payable by a child on admission to the school and, hence was non-refundable.