Del HC | NLU-Delhi succumbed to GNCTD’s pressure | Notification providing 50% horizontal reservation to candidates having passed qualifying exam from NCT of Delhi — Stayed

NLU Delhi succumbed to the pressure that was being constantly exerted by GNCTD only to buy peace and without awaiting the recommendations of the Committee constituted by the Governing Council.

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, JJ., while addressing the matter with regard to domicile reservation policy for the candidates who have passed qualifying examination from Delhi appearing held that,

It is well settled that when a statute provides for a thing to be done in a particular manner, it has to be done in that manner only.

Challenge in the present petition?

National Law University, Delhi has issued admission notification on 14th January, 2020 wherein they provided 50% horizontal reservation to candidates who have passed the qualifying examination from a recognized school/college/institute located within the NCT of Delhi as being void and ultra vires of the National Law University Act, 2007 and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Further another challenge was with regard to the prospectus released on 15th January, 2020 where admitting students to the LLM 1 year programme for 2020-21 session provides for 505 reservation for candidates passing the qualifying examination from a recognized school/college/institute situated within the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Declare the above as unconstitutional.

Contentions

Senior Advocate, N.K. Kaul submitted that Institute of such excellence cannot reserve seats on the basis of domicile/place of residence or the place from where a student has passed his qualifying examination as that would be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Further, he also pointed out that even in cases of reservation based on residence for admission to medical colleges, the Supreme Court has frowned upon such policies in the judgement in Jagdish Saran v. Union of India, (1980) 2 SCC 768 and Dr Pradeep Jain v. Union of India, (1984) 3 SCC 654 He would contend that for a cosmopolitan city like Delhi, this criteria would not work.

Adding to his contentions, Senior Advocate also submitted that the said decision of reservation was primarily taken on account of the arm-twisting tactic adopted by the Delhi Government as it had decided not to release funds till NLU Delhi fell in line with the regional reservation policy of Delhi Government.

Decision and Analysis of the Court

At present Court proposed to deal only with interim relief and thus did not delve into wether 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.

Court observed that 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.

With regard to the above, bench stated that there was no justification for NLU Delhi to have bypassed the Governing Council and proceed to reserve seats for candidates passing the qualifying examination from a school/college/institute within NCT of Delhi .

In Court’s opinion, Section 20(7) does not vest any power on the vice-chancellor to side step issues which are pending before the Governing Council taking unilateral decision.

Bench observed that:

It also seems to be evident from the material on record that State has been exerting pressure on NLU Delhi to provide reservation upto an extent of 85% for students of Delhi.

Even the 50% horizontal reservation made by the respondent No.3/NLU, Delhi has not gone down well with the respondent No.1/GNCTD, who is insisting on 85% reservation for students of Delhi.

“…it is incomprehensible as to how the Council could be side-stepped.”

Court stated that it appears that NLU Delhi succumbed to the pressure that was being constantly exerted by GNCTD only to buy peace and without awaiting the recommendations of the Committee constituted by the Governing Council.

Thus, bench held that that petitioners have been able to make out a prima facie case in their favour.

Balance of convenience lied in staying the operation of impugned notification which provides for horizontal reservation to the extent of 50% for candidates who have passed the qualifying examination from a recognized school/college/institute situated within the NCT of Delhi. Status quo ante as of the previous academic year shall 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.

Court directed NLU Delhi to issue a public notice on or  before 2nd July, 2020 with regard to the above decision. [Balvinder Sangwan v. State (GNCT) of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 674  , decided on 29-06-2020]

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