A 17-year-old Dalit student who was about to lose his seat at the country's premier Indian Institute of Technology, or IIT, got relief from the Supreme Court on Monday. Prince Jaibeer Singh was earlier turned away by the Bombay High Court. But the judges said on Monday that it would be a "travesty of justice" if he was denied admission and failed to receive help from the nation's highest court of law.
Prince, a resident of Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad, got selected for civil engineering branch at the IIT's Bombay campus on October 27. But he was unable to pay the acceptance fee of Rs 15,000 -- the initial amount to be paid online in order to secure the seat.
Initially, he fell short of money. But when he was able to arrange for it with some help from his sister, he was stymied by technical glitches on the website.
"There was some difficulty in gathering funds, but my sister helped us," said the teen, who has three elder sisters. "Then I tried paying the fees but there were technical glitches... I even went all the way to IIT Kharagpur (which was conducting the counselling for the seats) so that I could pay the fees," he said.
He then approached Bombay High Court, which rejected his plea. Desperate, he then moved the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the top court asked the IIT to allocate him a seat within 48 hours.
"Create a seat for this student... Ensure that this does not disturb any other already admitted student," the court said.
Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the two-judge bench, said, "This Court has before it a young Dalit student who is on the verge of losing a valued seat which has been allocated to him at IIT Bombay... It would be a grave travesty of justice that a young Dalit student is denied admission for non-payment of fees and is turned away from the Supreme Court".
"God has listened to our prayers. I am very happy. The last few days have been very tough for us... Supreme Court was our last hope. I was very anxious today," said Prince, who is living in Ghaziabad with his parents and is the youngest of five siblings.
The teen secured all-India rank of 25,894 and SC category Rank 864 this year -- his second attempt at the exam. After he did not make it last year, he secured admission at an engineering institute at Allahabad, but continued preparing for IIT entrance exam.
Prince will be the first from his immediate family to get into IIT. He has a distant cousin who studies at IIT Patna. His father is a lower level official in Delhi Police.
"IIT has always been my dream. My aim in life is to develop an expertise in defence technology. I want to modernise the defence sector of India so that we no longer have to depend on other nations to import various sophisticated parts that are used in advance fighter jets and other military equipment," he said.