Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has held that the decision of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (NUJS, Kolkata) to provide 30% reservation from the next Academic Year cannot be said to be contradictory to the amendment to the National University of Juridical Sciences Act, 1999 when the reservation policy of 30% seats was not available on the date when the admission process was initiated.
The Court was hearing the case of a student who had sought admission to the five-year law course offered by NUJS, Kolkata on the basis of the amendment in the West Bengal for short, ‘University’ National University of Juridical Sciences Act, 1999 vide the Amending Act which came into force on 21st May, 2019. The Amending Act inter alia provided for reservation of seats for students domiciled in the State of West Bengal to the extent of at least thirty percent of the total intake of the University.
An advertisement was published on 5th January 2019 by a consortium of National Law Universities in the country to conduct Common Law Admission Test on 12th May 2019 for which the last date of submission of application forms was 31st March 2019. The under-graduate admissions process herein provided for a choice of institution to the candidate, in which such candidate was willing to seek admission based on merit. The date of CLAT was later changed to 26th May 2019 in which the appellant participated and was ranked 731 in the All India Merit List, declared on 14th June 2019. As per the merit list and his choice, he was selected to get admission in National Law University, Odisha but admittedly, he did not join such institution. The University had issued a Brochure to fill up 127 seats based on CLAT merit list. As per the Brochure, 74 seats were meant for general category candidates and 10 seats for West Bengal domiciled candidates including 4 seats for general category.
“The grievance of the appellant was that 30% of the seats were reserved for the students domiciled in the State of West Bengal when the Act was amended on 21st May 2019. The Act had come into force before CLAT was conducted, but the benefit of reservation had not been extended to the students by the University in the Academic Session 2019-2020.”
The Court noticed that the total seats at the University are 127 including the seats meant for State domicile candidates prior to the amendment. The additional seats reserved were required to be provided at the time of initiation of the admission process which started in January, 2019. Each of the candidates intending to appear in the CLAT is required to give three choices for admission into the National Law Universities. The candidates had given these choices keeping in view the reservation policy of each State.
The Court said that since the reservation policy of 30% seats was not available on the date when the admission process was initiated, the decision of the University to provide reservation from the next Academic Year cannot be said to be contradictory to the provisions of the Amending Act. The Act is silent in respect of Academic Year in which the benefit of reservation is to be given.
“The candidates have already applied and given an option for admission in the various National Law Universities before the coming into force of the Amending Act. Therefore, the University extended the benefit of the reservation from the next Academic Session. We find such decision to be fair, reasonable and not arbitrary or capricious.”
[Shrayas Sinha v. West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3085 OF 2020, decided on 10.09.2020]