Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Japan Equality Case

The Tokyo District Court just handed down a decision finding that a national university’s (Tokyo Institute of Technology or TIT) denial of admission to a foreign student was unconstitutional. The case concerned an Iranian student, a refugee in Japan, who applied to the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the TIT. TIT denied his application on national security grounds, citing the Iranian government’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons capacity, and referring to a UN resolution asking member state to keep citizens of Iran from access to education regarding nuclear technology. The Iranian student filed a suit for damages against TIT. On Dec. 19, 2011, a panel of the Tokyo District Court, presided over by Judge Kobayashi, held that TIT discriminated the student on basis of his nationality, violating Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution (the equality clause). The Court found that TIT failed to consider the student’s refugee status, and that his application had nothing to do with the Iranian government’s nuclear program. But the court did not grant injunctive relief to give the student admission, saying that the conclusion will be left to TIT after it reopens the reviewing process. It also denied the student’s claim for damages, saying TIT’s action did not meet the standard of negligence, which is required under the relevant government compensation statutes. Still, the decision represents a very rare instance of Japan’s lower courts applying Article 14 to foreigners in such a context.

–Tokujin Matsudaira


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