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Delhi HC to hear PIL on high cut-off for Christian ST students

Student bodies, prominent academic raise red flags on move that might have impacted chances of students from region securing admission in St Stephen’s College

Manish Pant

Manish Pant

New Delhi: A couple of days after the prestigious St Stephen’s College in University of Delhi issued a corrigendum on the cut-off marks for Christian students belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST), a public interest litigation (PIL) will come up for hearing in Delhi High Court on Friday.

The PIL, moved by the former Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president and associate professor in mathematics at the college, Nandita Narain, seeks transparency in the admission process by ensuring representation for an adequate number of students from the category during the interview process.

Earlier, the 138-year-old college had revised downwards the marks for Christian students belonging to STs after a writ petition was filed by two applicants and three student groups from the Northeast region in the court.

Students Worngam Ningshen and Vanlalchhanchhuaha, and student organisations such as Naga Students’ Union Delhi (NSUD), Kuki Students’ Organisation Delhi (KSOD) and North East Students’ Society DU (NESSDU) are petitioners in the matter.

While hearing the petition on Wednesday, the court asked the college to release the list of all such candidates by Thursday. Although the college released the list, Siddharth Seem, the lawyer for the petitioner, alleged that an adequate number of students weren’t shortlisted for the interview.

Seem has filed both the writ petition and PIL, while the petitioners in both matters are represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves.

“For instance, in Economics Honours, four seats are set aside for students in the CST category and six students are supposed to be called for each under the zone of consideration rule. That adds up to a total of 24 students. However, the list released by the college reveals that only four students were called,” Seem told EastMojo over phone.

Seem added that the PIL was necessitated as the low turnout of candidates applying under the category despite the revision showed the college had failed to make any significant reduction in the cut-off percentage.

The petitioner, Narain, told EastMojo, “Even after lowering the unprecedentedly high cut-off for CST, enough candidates are not getting an interview call. We demand that the cut-offs be lowered further to ensure that an adequate number of students are called for the interview. The college admissions policy has a provision for lowering cut off up to 20% less than the general cutoff.”

Minority institution

Being a minority institution, St Stephen's College is allowed to admit up to 50% Christian students. In that, 25% of seats are reserved for students from the Church of North India (CNI), 16.5% for Christian (others) (COTH) and 8.5% for Christian STs (CST). The college also reserves some seats for Christian Physically Disabled (CPH).

The matter gathered steam when in a letter dated June 29 addressed to the college principal, the NSUD expressed its concern regarding the very high cut-offs for CST applicants seeking admission in different disciplines.

“While going through the cut off list, it is evident that there is high discrimination against students falling under Christian ST category by not calling (them) for interview and written test as the cut off marks have been kept at much higher than the other Christian groups,” the representation signed jointly by president and general secretary Hinoto P Aomi and Isaac Charenmai, respectively, pointed out.

The Union ministry of human resource development, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) were also copied in the communication.

It is mostly students hailing from the Northeast who have traditionally applied for admission under the CST category and would have been the most impacted.

“Among others, it is the church bodies from the Northeast who need to speak out. You are wiping out an important component of the college’s student representation,” Narain added.