The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to create a seat for a Dalit boy who qualified for the same but missed out on the opportunity due to a technical glitch while paying his fees.
The top court observed that it would be a great "travesty of justice" if the boy, who is on the verge of losing a valued seat that has been allocated in IIT Bombay, was denied admission for non-payment of fees despite having tried to do so. The top court clarified that the seat to the student at IIT Bombay "should not disturb the admission of any other student."
"Creation of this seat will be subject to admission being regularised if seat falls vacant," the court added.
The court's decision came after Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JOSAA), IIT's seat allocation authority said there was not a single seat available in all of IIT.
The top court's order came on a plea filed by Prince Jaibir Singh who challenged a Bombay High Court decision expressing its inability to interfere with the admission process. Singh, who passed the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Advanced 2021 with an All India Rank (CRL) of 25894 and Scheduled Caste (SC) Rank of 864, was allotted a seat at the IIT, Bombay for the four-year B. Tech Civil Engineering course. However, Singh's admission could not be processed due to his inability to pay the fees before the portal closed due to a technical glitch. Singh's attempts to pay the fees in person at IIT, Kharagpur was also unsuccessful.
The top court bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud on Friday had directed the Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JOSAA) to allocate a seat in the Civil Engineering course, or any other seat in any available stream at any of the IITs.
"Here is a Dalit boy who has made it to the IIT. How many students are able to achieve that? He may rise to lead the country in the next 10 years. Now, he is losing out on his seat for no fault of his. While he may be ousted on a point of law, on humanitarian grounds, sometimes, we have to rise above the law", Justice Chandrachud had observed.
Take a humanitarian approach: SC
When the matter was heard today morning, IIT's seat allocation authority expressed its inability to accommodate the student citing a lack of available seats. To this, Justice Chandrachud said a humanitarian approach must be taken to deal with the student.
"Don't take this wooden approach. Please understand the realities of social life, the issues on the ground. The student did not have money, then his sister had to transfer money, and then there were technical issues. The boy cleared the exam. If it was his negligence then we would not have asked you (to create a seat)," Justice Chandrachud said.
"A lot of times seats fall vacant. You can then adjust him there. Please tell the chairperson that the student cannot be left in the lurch. He is a Dalit boy and he did not have the money. You must understand the realities of what happens on the ground. Find a way out," Justice Chandrachud had implored.
"There will be judicial order against you and then it will be a problem for you. You must understand the reality of our social life," the bench had urged the authority directing it to speak with the institution giving them time till after lunch to see if provisions could be made.
Justice Chandrachud then observed that IIT must develop a "robust mechanism" after the bench was apprised that seven other students had also missed out due to non-payment of fees.
"…Everyone does not have multiple credit cards…There has to be some modality else only students from the metropolitan city will join IITs," the bench observed. "There should be some buffer for students who face these insurmountable hurdles," it added while disposing of the plea.