The Orissa High Court was on Tuesday “constrained” to observe that the Non-Resident Indian Sponsored NRI quota in the NLUs is an “affront to the meritorious candidates who toiled day night to secure seats through CLAT”.
Remarking that this is “like the reservation for the elite class”, the division bench observed that “this dubious category of NRI quota is unconstitutional”.
“The candidates belonging to the category of NRI/NRIS, who are very low ranked in the merit list often get seats in the NLUs whereas the general candidates having secured better marks also lag behind the NRIS students and get disappointed”, said the bench of Justices S. Panda and S. K. Panigrahi.
Case Background in NRI quota case
The bench was hearing a Writ Petition where the petitioner has challenged the inaction of NLU, Odisha in not considering the application of the petitioner for admission into 5 years BBALLB (Hons.) Course under NRIS (Non-Resident Indian Sponsored) category for the academic year commencing 2020. The grievance of the petitioner was that she applied for the entrance examination CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) conducted by the NLU. The petitioner wanted to apply under the NRI Sponsored quota category and accordingly applied through online form. Due to COVID outbreak at the residence place of the petitioner, she was unable to click/select the option for “NRI/NRIS Category” and selected the option for “General Category”. The petitioner logged the website on 15.8.2020 to make modification but the portal took a long time to open and she failed to upload and confirm the changes.
“From the perusal of records and submissions of Ld. Counsel of the OP. party No.1 (NLU, Odisha), it reveals that the petitioner herein has not applied under NRI/NRIS category for the CLAT 2020 Application in spite of several extensions granted to the students by the CLAT Consortium. The present petitioner sent mail to the Vice-Chancellor of National Law University, Odisha and Consortium of NLU on 17.08.2020 indicating that due to some technical glitch, she was not able to tick under NRI/NRIs category. There is always possibility of server down, internet glitch etc. and therefore, it has been advised by the CLAT conducting authority that candidates must apply well before the last date and the petitioner’s name because there tend to be heavy rush on the use of internet on the last date”, recorded the bench.
“The Op. Party No.1 is bound by the CLAT Rules and Notification. If the petitioner fails to figure in the CLAT 2020 NRI quota, the Op. Party No.1 cannot change the category of the candidate. Since the petitioner has not applied under NRI quota in the CLAT 2020 Application, due to the said fact the OP No.1had to reject the candidate’s application. Based on the applications received, merit list was prepared and uploaded on the web-site along with the wait listed candidates. The entire process has absolutely been done in a transparent manner and strictly based on merit. Changing the category, at this juncture when the admissions are over, would disturb the entire process and jeopardize the interest of so many students. All the deadline and schedules of counseling were prepared following the direction of the Supreme Court that the admission must be finished by 15.08.2020.”, noted the bench.
Court’s Observations in the NRI quota case
“The eligibility and selection under this category are unregulated, illegal and arbitrary. Even the apex court has observed in P. A. Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra that admissions under this category is given to less meritorious students just because they could afford to pay the higher fees demanded by the University”, reflected the bench.
Accordingly, the Court urged the Consortium of NLUs, the Bar Council of India and all the stakeholders involved in the process to revisit the so-called NRIS quota and prepare a proper regulation and system while implementing this quota. “Several studies reveal that the selection process under this NRI quota is quite vague, undefined and is based on inconsistent parameters”, added the bench.
Asserting that the “elitist approach to selected group in CLAT Admission process must be restricted”, the Court called upon the relevant stakeholders “especially the Bar Council of India, which is mandated to regulate the legal education in this country to ensure that a uniform and well-defined parameter are adopted so that the meritorious candidates do not suffer”.
“It is imperative that this issue needs to be settled within a shortest possible time to assuage the pains of the unselected due to poor rank”, said the bench, requiring free copies of the Order to be sent to the Chairman, Bar Council of India, Convener, Consortium of NLUs.
Finally, the bench observed that since all the seats under “NRI quota /NRIS category” have already been filled up by NLU, Odisha and no further seats are available, it is not inclined to entertain the petition and disposed off the same.