The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre, UGC and NAAC on a petition seeking a direction to put an end to caste based discrimination in universities filed by the mothers of Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide over alleged caste-based bias.
A Bench of the top court comprising of Justice NV Ramana and Justice Ajay Rastogi agreed to examine the plea and has asked the Centre to file a response within four weeks on the plea seeking direction for strict compliance of the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulation of 2012 which restricts such discrimination.
The plea was filed by Abeda Salim Tadvi and Radhika Vemula, mothers of Payal Tadvi and Rohit Vemula, respectively and senior lawyer Indira Jaising represented them. She sought a direction for the strict compliance of the UGC regulation of 2012, which restricts any kind of discrimination on campus.
Jaising said, “There are 288 universities, besides some more deemed universities where no equity commissions have been set up.” The Plea demands a rigorous and accountable system in place.
The petition points at the unchecked caste-based discrimination in higher education institutions, it said, “There have been several incidents of caste-based discrimination against members of the SC and ST community, which reflects flagrant non-compliance with the existing norms and regulations. These incidents are violative of the fundamental rights to equality, against discrimination, equal opportunity, the abolition of untouchability and right to life.”
The petition sought directions to all universities, including deemed ones and higher education institutions (HEIs), to ensure compliance with the UGC Equity Regulations in letter and in spirit.
Directions should be issued to all universities and HEIs to establish Equal Opportunity Cells on the lines of other anti-discrimination internal complaints mechanisms, they said.
Payal Tadvi who belonged to ST community, had allegedly committed suicide in her hostel at BYL Nair Hospital, Mumbai, on May 22. She allegedly faced caste discrimination and harassment from seniors. Payal, left a suicide note, naming three doctors who allegedly harassed her.
Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar at the Hyderabad Central University, hung himself from a ceiling fan in a hostel room on January 17, 2016 allegedly due to disciplinary actions against him by the university, by expelling him.
Since then, Radhika Vemula has been fighting forces responsible for her son’s death.
The petition sought directions to universities and HEIs to regularly organise compulsory orientation courses, workshops and training for staff, administrators and students to create separate modules for sensitization on caste. And bring in the public domain, through their websites, the practices adopted to address caste-based discrimination.
The petition further said, “The internal complaints mechanism should include members of the SC, ST communities and independent representatives from NGOs or social activists to ensure objectivity and impartiality in the process and any such direction that the court may issue.”