For the past one week, Rishabh Bhanamagi, a 22-year-old commerce graduate from Solapur, has been running from pillar to post to get his caste certificate validated. Bhanamagi is applying for an MBA course through Maharashtra’s Admission Regulatory Authority. But on June 6, he found that he cannot apply to the seats reserved in colleges for Scheduled Caste students if he cannot produce a caste validity certificate at the time of application. He is now forced to apply as a general category student because obtaining a caste validity certificate could take at least three to six months, he says.
“The last date for application is June 21 and there is no way I can get my caste certificate validated in the next 10 days. I won’t be eligible for the SC category seats,” said Bhanamagi, who scored 98.56 percentile in the common entrance exam held in March.
A new rule in admission to professional courses, introduced this year, has left applicants from reserved categories in a dilemma as they may be forced to apply as general category students. The state admission regulating authority, an apex body conducting admissions to all professional courses, has made it mandatory for applicants to produce caste validity certificates at the time of registration.
This is the first time applicants have been asked to furnish caste validity certificates at the time of application. Earlier, applicants provided an affidavit stating that they would furnish their caste validity certificates to the institute within six months of admission.
“The validity certificate is a way to verify that the caste certificate is genuine. Once admitted, students apply for verification through the principal of the institute. The application process requires the signature of the principal,” said Suraj Chavan, another MBA aspirant from Navi Mumbai. Currently, these students are in a limbo – having already graduated from the previous institute and as they haven’t been admitted to a new institution, they don’t have a principal to sign their application form.
AE Rayate, commissioner, state Common Entrance Test (CET) Cell and state admission authority, said the new rule was put in place in accordance with a Supreme Court order. “In September last year, while hearing a case on bogus certificates, the SC ruled that caste validity certificates have to be furnished at the time of registration or application. It ruled that if applicants couldn’t furnish validity certificates, they be considered in the general category,” said Rayate.
He said the admission authority had received requests from several applicants and parents but the authority is bound by the Supreme Court order. “Unless there is a government order or an aggrieved party moves court and the court stays the rule, we will have to go by the new rule,” said Rayate, adding that the authority has requested the state government to expedite the process of validating caste certificates.
Some students have met state education minister Vinod Tawde to resolve the matter but so far there has been no action.
“My sentiments are with the students but it is a Supreme Court directive. There is nothing that we can do. We had appealed to the Supreme Court but our appeal was declined,” said education minister Vinod Tawde.