How will you protect BPL students at self-funded colleges now that the scholarship has been withdrawn? The Kerala High Court asks the State

The Kerala High Court last week ordered the state government to clarify how a student belonging to the category below the poverty line can be asked to pay tuition at a self-funded college even if he was a subsidized rate.

Judge Devan Ramachandran also asked the state to answer the question of how these students can be protected now that they have been stripped of the scholarship program that was previously available to them.

The Court ruled on a plea introduced by some persons belonging to the BPL category by Lawyer V. Sethunath alleging that they had been assigned to self-funded colleges by the Commissioner of Entrance Examinations and had accepted the assignment based on their own preference under the impression that they were entitled to a scholarship.

However, they argued that this scholarship was now withdrawn due to certain High Court judgments and orders.

As a result, they say they are unable to pay tuition and are threatened with expulsion from college.

Without going into the merits of the claims at this stage, the Court put the following two questions to the State:

a) How can a ‘BPL’ student be asked to pay fees in self-funded colleges even at a subsidized rate because the fact that the applicant is included in the BPL category prevents him from doing so.

b) Given that the scholarship has been withdrawn, how does the government propose to protect BPL students, including covering their tuition fees and other expenses, or transferring them to government colleges, so that they can study free of charge.

The State has been asked to respond to these questions by the next posting date.

However, it was clarified that it is open to the government to check whether each of the students indeed falls under the BPL category and that these questions only apply to students who fall under this category.

The case will be resumed on August 9.

Case title: Nimal James & Ors c. State of Kerala & Ors.

Quote: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 376

Click here to read/download the order

Michael J. Birnbaum