The Madras High Court (HC) on Tuesday directed the central and state governments to reconsider the policy of not allowing SC/ST students to avail post-matric scholarship while joining courses under management quota in self-financing educational institutions.
The court gave the direction while dismissing PILs challenging a Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry communication in this regard. Citing Supreme Court and Madras High Court judgments, a division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee said, “…In the light of the limited scope of judicial review available to this court in respect of policy decision formulated by Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, it is not in a position to quash the impugned policy decision/communication of the above ministry.”
The bench was considering the question whether the ministry could be compelled to change its policy in the form of positive direction to pay or reimburse scholarship to SC students admitted under management quota or reimburse the scholarship amount to self-financing educational institutions.
The central and state governments following the dismissal of the PILs may reconsider the policy decision as to the extension of benefits of the scholarship scheme to meritorious SC/ST student admitted under management quota in self-financing educational institutions, the bench said.
“The said exercise shall be carried out as expeditiously as possible, preferably within a period of 12 weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order,” it said.
The bench said the Constitution of India guaranteed social uplift of persons belonging to the SC/ST category. “…The ministry may revisit the issue once again… and after all, upliftment of SC/ST students is an avowed social objective and to avail post-matric scholarship, economical criteria is also fixed and therefore, there is no likelihood of misuse or abuse also.”
The post-matric scholarship scheme for SC students is a 100 per cent sponsored scheme funded by the Centre and its disbursal/nodal agencies are state governments and union territorial administrations.
In a counter affidavit, the director of the Tamil Nadu government’s Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department submitted that they were having difficulties in meeting the expenses relating to disbursal of the scholarship to SC students admitted under the management quota in self-financing educational institutions.
The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has repeatedly stated that they cannot disburse/ reimburse the scholarship amount in respect of SC students admitted under management quota in such institutions.
One of the petitioners S Subbiah, a retired IAS officer, earlier submitted that the June 11 communication was issued on the basis of a note in Para VI (iii) (a) of the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme April, 2018 which disentitled scholarship for SC/ST students who joined higher education courses under management quota.
Contending that the original scheme did not define “management quota” anywhere, he said the rejection of scholarship would cause “grave prejudice and hardship” to the students belonging to the SC/ST category.
The ministry’s letter to the state government rejecting scholarship for management quota “at this point of time” by a non-speaking order will affect the life and destiny of multitude of downtrodden students as they would be forced to discontinue their education, he claimed.
The benefit of scholarship was granted to SC/ST students but the authorities were discriminating against those admitted under the management quota from 2018-19 onwards, the petitioner charged.