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3 reasons why SC could strike down Karnataka assembly passing 50% localite reservation for NLSIU [UPDATE-1]

National Law School of Karnataka University (NLSKU) Bangalore?
National Law School of Karnataka University (NLSKU) Bangalore?

Karnataka’s assembly has passed a bill, which is yet to be given the nod by the legislative council, which would reserve 50% of NLSIU Bangalore's 80 undergraduate seats (and its 50 LLM seats and 50 masters of public policy seats) for students with a strong connection to Karnataka, reported The Economic Times:

The bill, piloted by higher education minister Basavaraj Rayareddy in the absence of law minister T B Jayachandra, initially reserved 30 percent of the seats for resident students of Karnataka. It also defined domicile as a student whose either parent has resided in Karnataka for at least 10 years before the qualifying examination and the student has to have studied in a recognised educational institute in the state for five years preceding the exam.

State reservations are often perceived as popular with states and local politicians (with the BJP apparently having pushed for this reservation to be increased to 50% from 30% from the earlier draft bill).

However, students and NLSIU alumni may be less happy and could fear that this will dilute the mostly meritocratic entrance through the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). One anonymous student had told the ET: “Currently, all seats in the law courses are filled based on the national Common Law Admission Test ranking. “If 50 percent of the seats are limited to just the state level ranking, it will change the dynamics of the institution and its quality. It will be difficult to implement this law.”

Would it stand? Maybe not...

JGLS Sonepat deputy director Anand Prakash Mishra commented that the reservation likely wouldn't survive for long. “It will be stayed by the Supreme Court and ultimately be declared unconstitutional as it will be deemed arbitrary and violative of article 14,” he said, adding that “NLSIU has some special arguments” compared to other national law schools in other states with large local reservations.

Mishra said:

1. Role of Bar Council of India in setting it up, giving first Rs 5 crores from the BCI Trust which is of entire country's lawyers and not just that of Karnataka.

2. Supreme Court's involvement in setting up of NLSIU - CJI is its ex-officio Chancellor and not CJ of HC like other NLUs.

3. Few more like Karnataka Government has not funded it fully but funds have also come from other sources.

We have also reached out to the NLSIU student bar association (SBA) and NLSIU vice chancellor Venkata Rao for comment.

Photo by Smuconlaw.

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