Can an educational certificate be a marketable commodity? Madras HC answers while reiterating whether management can retain certificates of students

Madras High Court: G.R. Swaminathan, J., while addressing the grievance of some qualified doctors, expressed that, Educational Certificate is not a marketable commodity, therefore, there cannot be exercise of any lien in terms of Section 171 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872.

Factual Background


The petitioners were qualified doctors, who obtained their Post Graduate Degrees in respective colleges (respondents 3 to 8) during the academic year 2018-2021. While obtaining the admission, they had undertaken to serve in Government Hospitals for a period of two years.

Further, they had also executed bonds and after successful completion of their PG Courses, they were called upon to do COVID-19 Duty and worked on a contractual basis for about 10 months, after which they were relieved.

Since the petitioners did not receive any posting orders, they wrote to the respondents demanding the return of their original certificates collected by the respective colleges at the time of admission.

The stand of the respondents was that since the petitioners had not served for a full period of 2 years as per the bond terms and conditions, the original certificates could not be returned.

The above necessitated the filing of the present petition.

The Special Government Pleader strongly contested that the petitioners were bound by the terms of an undertaking that they had voluntarily given with open eyes at the time of admission and cannot be allowed to go back on their undertaking.

Analysis, Law and Decision


High Court noting the submission of the Special Government Pleader stated that the similarly placed candidates were already granted relief and the candidates even though were not able to fulfil the terms and conditions of the bond, they were able to get back their certificates.

The Bench held that the petitioners were entitled to relief for two reasons:

  • It is well settled that an Educational Certificate is not a marketable commodity, therefore, there cannot be exercise of any lien in terms of Section 171 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. In a catena of decisions, it has been held that the management cannot retain the certificates of the students.
  • A Statutory Authority will have to treat similarly placed persons in the same manner. Failure to do so would be an infraction of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Therefore, in view of the above two reasons, the petition was allowed, and the respondents were directed to return the original certificates to the petitioners within 15 days. [Dr S. Giridharan v. State of T.N., 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 2394, decided on 13-5-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioners: Mr E. Manoharan

For Respondents: Mr D. Ravichander, Special Government Pleader

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