‘Reservation policy not followed’: Kerala HC directs IIM Kozhikode to admit OBC candidate in PhD

IIM Kozhikode Admission: Kerala HC ruled that reservation policy wasn’t followed and selection criteria changed ‘after the entire selection was over’.

IIM Kozhikode had not informed candidates that there were cut-off marks for interviews in the admission criteria. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)IIM Kozhikode had not informed candidates that there were cut-off marks for interviews in the admission criteria. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Sheena Sachdeva | November 14, 2023 | 12:30 PM IST

NEW DELHI: An applicant for a PhD programme at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kozhikode needed Kerala High Court’s intervention to secure his seat. The candidate is from the historically-marginalised Other Backward Classes (OBC) and an alumnus of IIM-K. He had been eliminated from the PhD admission process after the interview. IIM Kozhikode had not informed candidates that there were cut-off marks for interviews in the admission criteria or what they were for the different categories.

No one from his category – OBC-NCL – had scored higher than the petitioner. Also, only three out of the 24 candidates admitted to the programme were from the OBC category. As per central law, 27% of seats are reserved for OBC candidates. In the case of this specific programme at IIM Kozhikode, this translated into six seats of which only three were filled.

Last week, the Kerala High Court ruled that “The reservation policy has not been followed and the selection criteria were sought to be changed after the entire selection was over”. The court directed IIM-K to admit the petitioner which it has.

The IIMs have come under severe criticism for failing to implement central reservation policies in their PhD admission and recruitment procedures. Recently, an IIM Ahmedabad alumni urged its director to implement the reservation policy. Earlier, a group from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay had revealed that nine IIMs, including IIM Kozhikode, violated reservation norms in PhD admissions.

In the present case, the student who requested to not be named, had applied for a seat in PhD Management (Practice Track) which is a doctoral programme for working professionals with a fee of Rs 9.5 lakh.

IIM Kozhikode admission criteria

The OBC candidate was called for an interview on August 9 and received the rejection email on September 7. It was only after his interview round was over that he discovered IIM Kozhikode had set cut-off marks for interviews. There had been no prior information. “IIM-K had kept 45 marks for general category, 40 for OBC and 35 as cut-off for SC candidates. The candidate noticed that his marks were low in comparison to the OBC category,” said MKS Menon, advocate of the candidate. He eventually approached the Kerala High Court. The eligibility criteria for PhD (Practice track) course is postgraduation with 60% marks and eight years of work experience, but there was no information on the cut-off marks.”

The candidate who filed the petition claimed that the institute manipulated the enrollment procedure and formulated a cut-off after the interview process was completed. “This is a violation as per the Supreme Court judgement of K Manjusri where the court looked into selection of district and session judges of Andhra Pradesh State Higher Judicial Services. The judgement stated that rules of the game cannot be changed after the entire game is over and results are awaited in terms of recruitment or selection of candidates,” said Menon.

In response to candidates queries, IIM Kozhikode said that they will be implementing the reservation policy wherein a 10% reduction will be given to OBC candidates over and above the general category cut-off during the interview round. “This method is not right. If it is followed, according to the PV Inderareshan judgement, it should be implemented in eligibility marks as well. The ruling states that the cut-off marks for admission of students in the OBC quota in Central Educational Institutions be a maximum 10 marks below the cut-off for the general category for all the selection processes,” Menon added.

The judgement marked a precedent for many candidates seeking admission in central institutes who fail to follow the admission process as per Central Educational Institutions (Reservation and Admission) Act, 2006.

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