The Kerala high court on Monday upheld a girl’s expulsion from college for living with her lover, polarising the debate over live-in relationships.
Activists and some students flayed the verdict for being “discriminatory” and against a Supreme Court ruling on live-in relationships, but many parents and college authorities hailed it as necessary for discipline on campus.
The 19-year-old girl, a student of Mar Thoma College of Science and Technology near Kollam (South Kerala), had approached the court after the college rusticated her citing her live-in relationship with a 20-year-old youth who was studying in the same college.
The girl was expelled from college after the couple was apprehended by police from hotel on a missing person complaint filed by her parents. No arrests were made.
She submitted before the high court that she was in the fourth semester, and should be re-admitted given good academic track record. But the single-bench headed by justice K Vinod Chandran turned down her plea.
“This is not a mere case of falling in love — two students taking a drastic step of eloping and living together without contracting a marriage. When taking such a drastic step for the sake of love, they should also be ready to face consequences,” the court observed while upholding the decision of the college.
The court noted that the college’s concern of setting an example for other students and ensuring discipline could also not be brushed aside. Earlier, the University of Kerala, to which the college is affiliated, had refused to interfere with the action taken by the college management.
The court requested the college to explore all possibilities of re-admitting the student with some conditions, but the college expressed helplessness claiming such a precedent would set a bad example.
“We are not against live-in relationships. But discipline is the touchstone of any educational institution. Reputation is essential for a privately-run institution like this,” said principal Prof KC Mathew.
The decision against the right of two consenting adults has draw flaw from women rights activists, many whom have pledged their support to the girl.
“Last year, the Supreme Court had ruled that live-in relationship is an accepted norm in society and it does not attract any penal action,” a woman activist in Kochi. “The minor irritant here is the boy is yet to complete 21 years. But it doesn’t mean the poor girl should be thrown out of her college.”
The girl’s counsel KV Anil Kumar said: “We are planning to move an appeal either in a division bench or the Supreme Court. Otherwise the judgment will affect the career of a bright student who scored more than 80% marks in all semesters.”
He claimed the college authorities initially promised to allow the girl to continue her studies there but later backtracked.
The boy has already transferred out of the college, he added, and the parents of the couple have agreed to their marriage once the boy turns 21.