A division bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice Ravi V Hosmani of Karnataka HC asked the State government to clarify on who would be the real beneficiaries of the 25 percent domicile reservation introduced for students of Karnataka at the NLSIU National Law School of India University and while hearing a batch of petitions questioning the Constitutional validity of the reservation, said
“You are wanting to benefit students who are well placed. Students who really require reservation in Karnataka, you (state) are not giving.”
The bench further orally observed that “it will only help the students of elite schools. You (NLSIU) will only get students from Bengaluru city. Students from schools like Bishops Cotton, Frank Anthony will be benefited, you are making their life easy. Reservation must be to uplift, not to give somebody on a platter.”
The bench said the state will have to clarify this when they make their submission as to what is the real purpose of bringing in this horizontal reservation.
The observations followed after advocate C K Nandakumar, appearing for two former students of NLSIU who challenged the reservation, argued that
“Prima facie the representation of Karnataka Students in NLSIU is far in excess, of the population of the State in the Country. Far from under-represented they are over-represented, thus there is no requirement of such a domicile reservation.”
Advocate Vikram Huilgol appearing for the state government submitted :
“One of the primary interests of the State in providing horizontal reservation to students who have studied in the State (“Karnataka students”) is to ensure that a portion of the talent that is produced by the school is retained within the State, in the larger interests of the State’s development.”
In the additional affidavit filed in the court, the state said that “The fact is that non-Karnataka students are unlikely to practice in Karnataka courts for want of knowledge of the Kannada language. On the other hand, there is a far greater possibility of a Karnataka student deciding to practice/work in Karnataka. Accordingly, by providing the impugned horizontal reservation to Karnataka students, the State seeks to ensure, as much as possible, that the State is benefited by the high standards of excellence at the NLSIU.”
Arguing that there was no basis or reasons for bringing the Amendment Act, Nandakumar argued that “Where is the analysis on the part of the state. They should have done this exercise. No report is placed on record. On the contrary, I have placed on record that no reservation is necessary or justified.”
To further justify his point, he relied on the Advocates Act, stating that “Section 30 of Advocates Act, points that there is absolutely no restriction on the right to practise anywhere in the country. On the other hand, there is entitlement… a right is given to practice anywhere. After graduating in legal study, can I go to Meghalaya and practice? Yes,” he submitted.
Nandakumar also argued that “The effect of the amendment is that it takes away the powers of the Executive Council of NLSIU. Secondly, the role of the state of Karnataka from the statute (NLSIU Act) itself is very limited, to carry out an amendment.”
He added that the State had failed to show reasons for the amendment and therefore the amendment was manifestly arbitrary on the touchstone of Article 14.
He prayed before the court for striking down the amendment.
Senior Advocate K G Raghavan, on Monday opened the arguments in the case. He pointed to the court that “The reservation is in violation of Article 19 (1) (g) and is violative of Article 14, he said there is no rational basis for making distinction between Karnataka and students from outside”.
He asked when the admission process had started from January, can this amendment of April 27, affect the admission process. He claimed that the only reason for this amendment is that law schools in some other states have made reservations of NLSIU for their students.
“Is this a sufficient reason for making reservation for Karnataka Students?” he asked.
Raghvan submitted that the Bar Council of India, Bar Council of India Trust and Society formed by the trust, all of them have created the University and it was established under the statute of the State. “It is a creation of the Bar Council with the blessing of the state.” He added that “It is not like the Bangalore University or Karnataka Law University or Karnataka University.” It is not a private body but an autonomous body he clarified.