The Karnataka government has moved the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court’s decision to quash the National Law School of India University NLSIU Amendment Act 2020, by which 25% NLSIU domicile reservation was introduced .
The first plea in the matter was filed by 17-year-old student Balachandar Krishnan, a CLAT aspirant. The plea stated that the NLSIU Amendment Act 2020 will adversely affect the petitioner’s opportunity to get a seat in NLSIU.
The second plea, being in the nature of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), was moved by Advocate CK Nandakumar.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) had filed the third petition in the matter. The plea stated that the Karnataka government went ahead and enacted the NLSIU Amendment Act 2020 without prior consultation with the BCI.
The present challenge by govt. are on the following grounds :
- The Public Interest Litigation filed by two alumni of NLSIU ought not to have been entertained by the High Court. In Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee v. CK Rajan, the Supreme Court had held that the High Courts should not ordinarily entertain a writ petition by way of Public Interest Litigation questioning the constitutional validity of a statute.
- High Court has expressly held that the Karnataka State Legislature has the necessary legislative competence to pass the Amendment Act. Having held so, High Court could not have invalidated the amendment merely because it found that the Amendment alters the scheme of reservation envisaged under the NLSIU Amendment Act 2020.
- High Court erred in holding that the Amendment Act usurps the powers of the Executive Council of NLSIU and is, consequently, contrary to the scheme of the Act. High Court has, in effect, held that once a power is conferred on an authority by statute NLSIU Amendment Act 2020, the Legislature is powerless, in perpetuity, to curtail that power or alter the manner in which such powers are to be exercised.
- High Court erred in holding that NLSIU is not an aided institution. State had filed extensive material before the High Court to show that NLSIU has been provided with annual aid, as well as 23 acres of land on lease at a concessional rate by the State.
- High Court has also erred in observing that NLSIU is not a State institution and that it is not within the control of the State. NLSIU was created by an enactment of the Karnataka State Legislature and, therefore, the institution can only be categorized as a State institution. Irrespective of the history behind the establishment of the institution and the role played by the Bar Council, the fact of the matter is that the institution owes its very existence to an enactment of the Karnataka State Legislature.
- High Court erred in holding that the Amendment Act violates Article 14 of the Constitution, as the reservation sought to be introduced for students of Karnataka does not have a nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. State had explained the basis for the reservation and how the amendment has a direct nexus to the ultimate object sought to be achieved by the NLSIU Amendment Act 2020, which is to promote legal education and thereby enrich the legal profession and academia both in the State of Karnataka and in the country at large.
- High Court further erred in holding that the State has not placed any data on record to show that the students of Karnataka are not represented in NLSIU or that that they are backward. It was never the case of the State that students of Karnataka are underrepresented or backward and that, therefore, they need to be represented by way of the State’s affirmative action. On the other hand, the State’s justification for the impugned reservation was, as explained earlier, based on the legitimate expectation that students of Karnataka would gain admission, settle in the State, and serve the State’s interest, as well as further the cause of the legal profession/academia.
Based on the above grounds, among others, the State government has prayed for leave to appeal against the September 29 judgment of the High Court on NLSIU Amendment Act 2020. An interim stay on the Karnataka High Court order has been prayed for.