The Supreme Court has held that Scheduled Caste/Tribe students could not be expelled from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) on the ground of poor performance.

A Bench of Chief Justice Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan said the IITs must provide them with additional coaching to bring them up on a par with the general category students.

Mandate of Article 46

“It is not in dispute that SC and ST are a separate class by themselves, and the creamy layer principle is not applicable to them. Article 46 of the Constitution enjoins upon the state to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. These socially and economically backward categories are to be taken care of at every stage even in the specialised institutions like IITs.”

Avinash Singh Bagri and five other SC/ST students of the IIT-Delhi filed writ petitions, alleging that most of the SC/ST students who had been admitted were denied the right to pursue their education on the ground of poor performance.

The reservation provided by the Centre/State governments had become redundant, as no infrastructure was provided to the SC/ST/OBC students to enable them to acquire benchmarks; as a result, 90 per cent of them had either failed or dropped out in the first or second year in the last decade.

Disposing of the petitions, the Bench said: “The duration of B.Tech is 4/5 years, which is divided into 8/10 semesters depending upon the stream; the said durations are extendable for a further two years to enable students to pass B.Tech.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam cited instances to show that the petitioners were not fully responsible for their expulsion. “But, at the same time, we are conscious of the fact that the IIT-Delhi, in order to maintain and continue its high standards of education, implemented certain aspects which were helpful to the petitioners. But the fact remains that in spite of such efforts, these petitioners were not able to secure the minimum grades.”

Ends of justice

The Bench said: “The ends of justice would be fully met by giving one more opportunity to them. Accordingly, we direct the IIT-Delhi to consider their case afresh and, in view of the peculiar facts, reappraise their performance, taking note of the special features available/applicable to these reserved categories and take a decision one way or the other within four weeks. We make it clear that the IIT-Delhi is free to pass appropriate orders by considering all aspects, including the policy of the government of India for providing reservation to bring them into the mainstream, along with others.”