KUTTIPURAM, KERALA: In a landmark decision, the Kerala High Court has ruled that a life-term convict, denied admission to a law course by a college, be allowed to pursue his studies online. The case highlights the complex interplay between societal concerns, rehabilitation efforts, and the right to education for incarcerated individuals.
Karuvangadan Mukthar alias Muthu, serving a life sentence for murder, had cleared the entrance exam for a three-year law program at KMCT Law College in Kuttipuram. Despite his academic achievement, the college, citing security concerns and potential disruption to campus life, refused him admission.
Muthu challenged the college’s decision in the High Court, arguing that education is a fundamental right and denying him an opportunity for reform and reintegration into society was unfair. The college, a minority institution, defended its right to manage its admissions based on its internal policies.
Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas, presiding over the case, acknowledged the college’s concerns but emphasized the importance of rehabilitation and education for convicts. He stated, “Rehabilitation of a convict can pave the way for his reformation and bring him back to civic society. In this context, compulsory education must be viewed in contradistinction to voluntary education. Compulsory education may bring in resentment, while voluntary education may pave the way for the reformation of the individual.”
Upholding Muthu’s right to education, the court directed the college to facilitate his online participation in the law program. Justice Thomas further declared, “The right of the convicts to pursue their studies must be honoured and a balance must be struck between the interests of society and the rights of the convict.”
This verdict has sparked debate across India. Supporters of the decision view it as a progressive step towards ensuring inclusivity and promoting reformation within the prison system. Others remain wary of potential security risks and disruptions caused by online participation of convicts in educational programs.
The KMCT Law College is yet to officially respond to the court order. It remains to be seen how the institution will implement the online participation arrangement and whether similar cases in the future will follow this precedent.
The Kerala High Court’s decision has undoubtedly opened a significant window of opportunity for incarcerated individuals seeking educational avenues. However, the effectiveness of online learning in a prison setting and its impact on both prisoners and educational institutions still remain open questions to be addressed through careful implementation and future evaluation.