The Delhi High Court on Monday, in an interim order, stayed the reservation policy of the National Law University (NLU) Delhi providing horizontal reservation of 50% to Delhi based candidates. The court held that the decision for providing horizontal reservation had been taken by the NLU in haste without acting in accordance with the National Law University Act, 2007.
“The court held that the decision for providing horizontal reservation had been taken by the NLU in haste without acting in accordance with the National Law University Act, 2007.”
A division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad also directed that the status quo ante as of the previous academic year should be maintained for making admissions to the BA LL.B (Five Year Programme) and LL.M (One Year Programme) in NLU, Delhi, for the academic year 2020-21.
The bench also ordered the NLU to issue a public notice on or before July 2, informing the public at large about court’s decision and granting a further period of one week from the date of issuance of public notice to enable interested candidates to submit their applications for admission.
This followed a batch of petitions filed by alumni and current students challenging the Admission Notification dated January 1, 2020 and the Admission Guidelines issued by the NLU Delhi for admitting students to the BA LL.B (Five Year Programme) and LL.M (One Year Programme). The notification provides for 50% horizontal reservation to candidates who have passed the qualifying examination from a recognized school/college/institute located within the NCT of Delhi. The petitioners seek that the said notification to be declared as being void and ultra vires of the National Law University Act, 2007 and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, assisted by advocate Nipun Saxena, for the petitioners inter-alia contended that as NLU, Delhi is an Institute of excellence, such an institute cannot reserve seats on the basis of domicile/place of residence or the place from where a student has passed his qualifying examination, such a reservation would be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
“petitioners inter-alia contended that as NLU, Delhi is an Institute of excellence, such an institute cannot reserve seats on the basis of domicile/place of residence…..”
The High Court noted that the issue regarding making provision for reservation for students of Delhi was placed before the Governing Council in its meeting dated June 13, 2019. The Governing Council had constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice N.V. Ramana, Judge, Supreme Court, which included Chief Secretary, NCT Delhi, and Secretary, Higher Education, Government of Delhi and the Registrar, NLU, Delhi. The said Committee was to examine the entire issue and forward its recommendation to the Governing Council.
“There is nothing placed on record to demonstrate that any recommendation was placed before the Governing Council, which is the only body constituted under the NLU Act to take decisions on all important matters relating to the University and its functioning. In this scenario, there was no justification for the respondent No.3/NLU, Delhi to have decided to bypass the Governing Council and proceed to reserve seats for candidates passing the qualifying examination from a recognised school/college/institute situated within NCT of Delhi on the strength of the decision of the Vice Chancellor of the Respondent No. 3/NLU which is purported to have been taken in exercise of the power conferred under Section 20(7) of the NLU Act”, the court held.
Further, the bench was of the opinion that if no stay was imposed on the impugned reservation policy, then grave prejudice would be caused to the students who would be applying for admission in the respondent No.3/NLU, Delhi for the academic year 2020-21.
The court clarified that it had not gone into the issue as to whether reservation can be provided to students who have taken their qualifying examination from a recognised school, college/institute in Delhi and the extent to which the State Government can intrude into the autonomy of a University created with the object of achieving excellence in the field of legal education and research. These are issues, the court said, that would be engaged with at the time of final arguments.