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SC asks IIT to adopt humanitarian approach, allot seat to Dalit boy in 48 hours

Asking IIT, Bombay to adopt a humanitarian approach, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the premier engineering institute to allocate within 48 hours a seat to a young Dalit boy, who missed out, as he could not deposit his fees due to the non-functioning of his credit card.

The apex court exercised its plenary powers to direct the IIT, Bombay for allocating a supernumerary seat to the young boy from Allahabad, saying it would be a travesty of justice if he is turned away from the portals of the Supreme Court.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said, “This court has before it a young Dalit student, who is on the verge of losing a valued seat which has been allocated to him at IIT, Bombay, The travails of the appellant has taken him from Allahabad, where he is currently studying to Kharagpur and Bombay and eventually to the national capital. Having regard to the facts of the case, it would be a grave travesty of justice to the young Dalit student who has to finally move this court, is turned away from its portals…”

The bench noted that if the petitioner Prince Jaibir Singh, who has secured 864 All India ranks in the SC category in the IIT entrance exam, is not admitted in this academic year, he will be ineligible to appear for further entrance examinations as he has appeared in two consecutive attempts.

“Hence, we are of the view that this is a fit and proper case where the exercise of jurisdiction under Article 142 of the constitution is warranted at the interim stage, in the facts which have appeared before the court. We accordingly direct the first and second respondent (IIT, Bombay) to ensure that the seat which is allocated to the appellant shall be allotted to him at IIT, Bombay. This shall be done without disturbing any other students, who have already been admitted”, the bench said.

The top court said that the creation of supernumerary seats in the facts of the present case shall be subject to the admission of Singh being regularised if any seats fall vacant as a result of exigencies, which may arise in the course of the admission process.

“Parties shall act on the certified copy of this order and implement these directions within a period of 48 hours that is by November 24,” the bench said.

During the hearing, the bench was informed by advocate Sonal Jain, appearing for Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JOSAA) and IIT, Bombay that there are no more seats available in any of the IITs across the country as the admission process is complete and the court can pass an order under Article 142 for allocating a seat to Singh.

The bench said, “Look at the background of the child. He has to borrow money from his sister after his credit card malfunctioned. Don’t be wooden like this. We can pass an order under Article 142 but that may not be favourable for IITs. You can adopt a humanitarian approach and explore the possibilities. Explain this to the chairman”.

The top court said that many seats get vacant after students take admission in different institutes to further their career in better options and IIT should look and allocate one such seat to this student.

“Something has to be done for this student. It is elementary common sense, which students would not like to get into IIT, Bombay and not pay Rs. 50,000 fees. It is obvious that he has some financial problems. He has to borrow money from his sister. These students study years after years for this exam. Look at their background,” the bench said.

Jain said that there are seven other students, who despite being allocated the seats could not pay their fees and the court must consider this fact.

The bench added that IITs should have a robust system in place to rule out any such situation in the future because students from even rural parts of the country study hard to make it through this examination.

“Ordinary person, do not have multiple credit cards with them. They have limited options to make payments. Otherwise, you will only have students from metropolitan cities and not from rural parts of the country,” it said.

On November 18, the top court had come to the aid of the boy and said that “the court must sometimes rise above the law” as “who knows 10-20 years down the line he may be the leader of our nation”.

The top court directed the counsel appearing for the Centre to procure details of admissions in IIT, Bombay, and explore the possibility that he could be admitted.

The petitioner has claimed that he was allocated a civil engineering seat in IIT, Bombay but he could not make payment for the seat acceptance fee as his credit card did not work on October 27 despite several efforts.

In his plea, filed through advocate Pragya Baghel, Singh said that on the next day, he had tried to book the seat after his sister sent the money but could not do so.

Thereafter, he wrote several emails and made calls to the management authorities of IITs but did not receive any response.

Failing to get any relief, he then approached the Bombay High Court seeking directions to IIT, Bombay but his plea was dismissed on technical grounds. 

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