The State Government on Monday told the Karnataka High Court that National Law School of India University (NLSIU) though is an Institute of national significance, it is not an institute of 'Eminence' or Institute of National Importance.
Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi, defending the state government's decision to introduce 25 percent domicile reservation at NLSIU for students of Karnataka, said :
"Though we can say it (NLSIU) is an institute of Excellence, law recognizes Institute of Eminence or Institutes of National importance. But it does not mean that this is not an institution of special significance. We are proud of it, but Institutes of national importance have their own significance in law. Like AIIMS and etc are included in the list of Institutes of National Importance. IISC bangalore, IIT Mumbai are all recognized as institutes of importance."
Navadgi also clarified that "NLSIU is a state university. It is recognized as a state university by the University Grants Commission."
A division bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice Ravi V Hosmani questioned the stand pointing out that the two state legislatures --Karnataka University Act and Karnataka Law University Act - have excluded NLSIU.
Navadgi also submitted to the court a list of other Universities in Karnataka where there are reservations for students of Karnataka. He said "Policy of the state is to bring in reservation for students of Karnataka in all the Universities."
The State also said that NLSIU's incorporation was preceded by NLS society, which was a society registered under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act. Navadgi read a communication dated May 3, 1985, in which the society made an application to the State Govt for incorporation of the society into University. After addressing the court on the NLSIU Act he said "State govt is inseparable and ingrained with the NLSIU."
Elaborating on the object of the amendment Act, Navadgi said "Reservation is not based on residence. It is for all the students who have studied in institutions within Karnataka."
He added that "Object as far as we could see is students who pass out from this law school and who are likely to stay in the state of Karnataka, we want to give reservation to these students. The reservation is not restricted to you being a Kannadiga."
To a question posed by the court whether the impugned reservation is in accordance with law, Navadgi said "The Supreme Court has generally observed that it is perfectly justified for any state to reserve seats in an institution. The reservation will be based on a criteria that students who have studied in those institutions, will serve the state.
On a clarification sought from the court "What is the meaning of the condition in the law, 10 years preceding the qualifying exams? Is a hiatus allowed?", Navadgi said "If a student has studied from class 1 to 10 in Karnataka and PU 1 and PU 2he does it outside, on plain reading he will stand eligible for reservation. Object of the rule is to ensure we have a candidate who has studied for a period of 10 years in Karnataka.It need not be conjunctive."
The state government mentioned that "Object of the Act is to somehow ensure a portion of students passing out from NLS stay back in state and serve the state. For doing so criteria could have been parents stayed in state, student resides in state or studied in Karnataka. All the criteria could be interchangeable. Ultimate object remains intact."
The Court remarked "Law schools in other states is fall out of the fact that NLS seat capacity is limited. Students could not get admission on merits, therefore other states came forward to replicate the NLS model. Therefore they said we will give reservation for our state children." Thus the Object of establishing NLSIU is not to provide reservation."
To which Navadgi replied, "Our objective is that minimum number of students of Karnataka study there."
The bench added, "Because of this reservation 23 students of Karnataka who are less meritorious will be displacing 23 meritorious students from outside the state who have scored in CLAT exams."
Navadgi will continue his submissions on Tuesday.
In March, the Karnataka State Assembly passed the National Law School Of India (Amendment) Act, 2020, which received the Karnataka Governor's assent on April 27. As per this amendment, NLSIU should reserve horizontally twenty-five percent of seats for 'students of Karnataka'.
The amendment inserts the following proviso in Section 4 of the National Law School of India Act :- "Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act and the regulations made thereunder, the school shall reserve horizontally twenty-five percent of seats for students of Karnataka."
As per the explanation of this section, "student of Karnataka" means a student who has studied in any one of the recognized educational institutions in the State for a period of not less than ten years preceding to the qualifying examination."
Reports about previous hearing may be read here :
NLSIU Not A State University; Govt Funding 'Very Minuscule' : University Tells Karnataka HC
'Domicile Reservation Goes Against Objective Of National Law School': Bar Council Of India Tells Karnataka HC
'It Will Only Help Students Of Elite Schools': Karnataka HC Asks State To Clarify Who Will Benefit From NLSIU Domicile Reservation