Kerala High Court Upholds College's Decision to Expel Student Couple For Living Together

The couple living together before the male student was of legally marriageable age was enough to expel them, in the judge's eyes.

According to Live Law, the Kerala high court on Friday dismissed the petition of a female student of Mar Thoma College of Science and Technology, Chadayamangalam, who was challenging her dismissal from college after authorities accused her of eloping with a classmate.

The couple was living together in a lodge in Thiruvananthapuram, from where they were apprehended by the police based on a missing persons complaint and produced before a magistrate. The magistrate then released them to their respective parents. The college took disciplinary action against both students, forcing them to leave college.

The female student, who is currently in the fourth semester (of six) of a bachelor’s in english language and literature, said in her petition that the only thing she could be accused of was “falling in love with a classmate”. This was not a legitimate reason for dismissal, she said, especially given that she was two-thirds of the way through her course and had an excellent academic record.

Justice K. Vinod Chandran, however, said that the college was “rightly” worried about this “indisciplined” act. Even while recognising the couple’s agency as adults, the court went on to accept the college’s decision to govern students’ private lives.

“This is not a mere case of falling in love; but two students taking the drastic step of eloping and living together without even contracting a marriage. As consenting adults they could definitely act according to their volition. But, here they could not have even legally entered into a marriage. When taking such drastic step for the sake of love, as adults, they should also be ready to face the consequences. The Management’s concern of setting an example to the other students and ensuring maintenance of discipline in the educational institution cannot be easily brushed aside.

The impulsive act of the petitioner has resulted in the drastic consequences. Having gone through the report of the five member Committee as also the order of the Principal and also noticing the fact that the petitioner along with a classmate had eloped and had been residing elsewhere from where they were apprehended by the Police, this Court is not inclined to exercise discretion in favour of the petitioner to interfere with the orders passed by the Management.”

The judge’s statements have raised eyebrows among womens rights activists, who say they seem to have a lot more to do with his ideas on relationships and social norms surrounding them than with the legality of the case, since he barely mentions the latter. There is no talk of the college rules and regulations that the couple may have broken or any laws that their acts might have gone against, only repeated mentions that a “fair” inquiry was carried out internally. He mentions in the order that the male student was not yet of legally marriageable age (21 for men and 18 for women) as justification for the college’s action, even though the couple had not, in fact, got married.

“Without even contracting a marriage…” the court order reads, hinting perhaps that it was the judge’s sensibilities that were hurt rather than his idea of justice. Offending these sensibilities was then seen as fair justification for depriving this young couple of their education.