The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to respond within four weeks to a petition filed by the mothers of Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi, who committed suicide because of alleged caste discrimination, PTI reported. They had moved court last month, seeking to end caste discrimination in universities and other higher education institutions.

Vemula, a PhD scholar at Hyderabad Central University, committed suicide on January 17, 2016, while Tadvi, an Adivasi student at TN Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai, killed herself on May 22. Three doctors accused of harassing Tadvi are out on bail at present.

Radhika Vemula and Abeda Salim Tadvi have 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.

Citing data accessed through a Right to Information reply, the petitioners said the UGC 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,” added Radhika Vemula and Abeda Salim Tadvi. “Many universities also did not provide any details of the mechanism adopted by them to look into these complaints.”

They 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 in their petition.

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Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi’s mothers petition SC to end caste discrimination at universities