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SC asks IIT-Bombay to create seat for Dalit student who couldn’t pay fees on time

The student, in his petition, said that he had tried to make the payment but it did not go through due to a technical glitch.

Coming to the rescue of a student who could not get admitted to IIT-Bombay due to a technical glitch, the Supreme Court on Monday invoked its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to direct the institute to create a seat for him,

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna asked the Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JoSAA) to allot a seat to Prince Jaibir Singh, a student belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, saying “it would be a great travesty of justice if the young Dalit student is denied admission for non-payment of fees…”

This court has before it a young Dalit student who is on the verge of losing a valued seat which has been allocated in IIT Bombay. The travails of the appellant have taken in from Allahabad, where he is presently studying, to Kharagpur and then to Bombay and eventually to the national capital. Having regard to facts of the case, it would be a great travesty of justice if the young Dalit student is denied admission for non-payment of fees to IIT Bombay after having tried to do so. Hence, we are of the view that it’s a fit case of Article 142 in interim stage,” the bench said.

The bench added its order will not disturb any other student who has already been admitted. The court also said the supernumerary seat shall be subject to admission of the appellant being regularised in the event that any vacancy falls as a result of exigencies that may arise in the course of the admissions process.

It also directed that the order shall be given effect to in the next 48 hours.

Singh had passed the JEE (Advanced) 2021 examination and secured an All India Rank (CRL) of 25894 and SC (Scheduled Caste) rank of 864. He was allotted a seat for the BTech in civil engineering course at IIT-Bombay.

The Business Rules for Joint Seat Allocation for the Academic Programs offered by IITs for the academic year 2021-22 had set a deadline till 12 pm on October 31 “for completion of fee payment/document upload/response by candidate to query (if required) for Round 1”.

According to Singh’s petition, he logged into the JoSAA site on October 29, applied under the Slide Category of admission and uploaded documents as required. “However, the seat acceptance fee payment could not be done” that day “as Singh was falling short of money and therefore, his sister transferred money to his account” on October 30.

He further stated that he had attempted “about 10 to 12 times to make payment” on October 30 but “was unable to make the payment due to a technical error at the end of his card issuing bank, viz., State Bank of India”. On October 31, he “attempted to make payment by visiting a cyber café however all the attempt…failed and the Petitioner was unable to make the seat acceptance fee payment within the stipulated time”.

Singh then wrote emails to the JoSAA and IIT-Bombay but to no avail. The Uttar Pradesh resident also visited JoSSA but there was no help forthcoming.

He then approached the Bombay High Court but his plea was dismissed. After that, he moved the apex court.

Hearing the appeal against the Bombay HC on November 20, the SC had asked authorities to explore the possibility of admitting him.

On Monday, the authorities informed the court that all seats had been filled and there was no vacancy left.

But the court in reply told the authorities that something needs to be done to ensure that Singh gets admitted.

“You are bound to do something, there is no question of exploring options. Right now, we are giving you this opportunity, otherwise we will pass an order under Article 142. You better do something for this young man. Look at his background. This is a different case. Don’t be wooden like this. He cleared the exam last year, he cleared it this year, he just could not pay the fee in time. Deal with him with a humanitarian approach. You can do everything if it fits you. This is only bureaucracy. Speak to your chairperson and find a way out. You cannot leave him in a lurch,” said Justice Chandrachud.

Pointing to the financial problems cited by the candidate, the court said, “You must understand the realities of what happens on the ground. Find a way out.”

The court said it will be forced to issue a judicial order if authorities are not able to do anything. “Don’t put up your hands. If we pass a judicial order, it will cause problems for you elsewhere. This is not some case where the student has been negligent or at fault. This is a genuine case,” the bench said passing over the matter to give time to the authorities to take instructions.

When it heard the matter again in the afternoon, the counsel for the authorities told the bench that all seats have been allocated and urged it to pass directions under Article 142 so that a seat can be created.

He also informed the bench that seven more students had missed out on their admissions due to non-payment of fees.

Justice Chandrachud then told the counsel, “You must have a robust mechanism. Everyone does not have multiple credit cards. They study for IIT entrance so long and student is deprived of admission! There has to be some modality else only students from metropolitan city will join IITs.”

The counsel responded that there is a grievance redressal mechanism in place to address such issues.

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