The mothers of Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi have moved the Supreme Court seeking to end caste discrimination in universities and other higher education institutions, PTI reported on Wednesday.

Vemula, a PhD scholar at Hyderabad Central University, had committed suicide on January 17, 2016, after allegedly being discriminated against because of his caste. Tadvi, an Adivasi student at TN Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai, committed suicide on May 22 after allegedly being at the receiving end of casteist abuse by three doctors. The three are out on bail at present.

The petitioners – Radhika Vemula and Abeda Salim Tadvi – urged the top court to issue guidelines to the higher education institutions on the matter and pointed out the inadequacy of existing “equity regulations” that the University Grants Commission notified in 2012 to address complaints of caste discrimination on campuses, The Leaflet reported.

Citing data accessed through a Right to Information reply, the petitioners said the commission had failed to take action against universities that do not comply with the regulations. “Even in the universities that have provided the data, the majority of the universities have claimed that they did not receive any complaints of caste discrimination,” the petitioners said. “Many universities also did not provide any details of the mechanism adopted by them to look into these complaints.”

They requested the court to ensure all universities and higher education institutions establish equal opportunity cells on the lines of anti-discrimination internal complaints mechanisms. These cells should have members from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and independent representatives from non-governmental organisations, or social activists, to ensure their objectivity and impartiality. The presence of faculty members appointed anti-discrimination officers deters students “as they fear it would impact their academic results”, the petitioners pointed out.

“The repeated failures of the UGC to address issues of caste-based discrimination and ensure compliance of its regulations has resulted in the violation of fundamental rights of the SC, ST community in higher educational institutions, which deserves the intervention of the Supreme Court.”

Radhika Vemula and Abeda Salim Tadvi are seeking to enforce fundamental rights, particularly the right to equality, the right to prohibition of discrimination against caste, and the right to life. “There have been several incidents of caste-based discrimination against members of the SC/ST community which reflects flagrant non-compliance with the existing norms and regulations in place for the same,” they said.

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