The Delhi High Court Monday stayed the National Law University, Delhi (NLUD) decision to reserve 50 per cent seats for candidates from the national capital, saying the decision was taken by the varsity in haste without acting in accordance with the NLU Act.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad directed the NLUD to issue a notice on or before July 2, informing the public at large about the decision taken above and granted a further period of one week from the date of issuance of the notice to enable the interested candidates to submit their applications for admission.
The high court said a prima facie case was made out for a stay on the university's decision and the redrawn schedule will not interfere with the entrance examinations that are to take place in August and this order shall also be uploaded on the website of the NLUD forthwith.
In our opinion, the decision for providing horizontal reservation has been taken by the respondent no.3 (NLU, Delhi) in haste without acting in accordance with the NLU Act. We are of the opinion that if the impugned notification is not stayed, grave prejudice would be caused to the students who would be applying for admission in NLU, Delhi for the academic year 2020-21, the bench said.
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, it added.
The high court's interim order came on a plea by NLUD students and alumni who challenged the reservation decision saying it "strikes at the heart of national character and the standards of excellence" of the university.
The students filed the petition against the introduction of 50 per cent horizontal reservation at the university for candidates who have cleared their qualifying examinations from an institute in Delhi.
The last date for submission of application form is June 30, 2020, the petition has said.
The high court, in its 23-page order, said staying the operation of the notification insofar as horizonal reservation of seats for students belonging to Delhi has been provided for the academic year 2020-21, would result in inviting a larger section of students.
In the course of submissions, it was brought to the notice of the court that as against 24,000 applications for admission received by NLUD last year, this year, the number of applications have dwindled to around 18,000.
This significant reduction in the number of applications received by the university is a telling comment on the change made in the admission policy for the academic year 2020-21, the high court said.
Even otherwise, this court is of the opinion that there was no tearing hurry for the NLU, Delhi to have reserved seats for the academic year 2020-21. The existing policy could have been continued till the Governing Council took a decision on the issue upon receiving the recommendations of the Committee constituted by it. Prima facie, the impugned decision in violation of the Act, it said, adding 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.
One of the petitioners Pia Singgh said she intended to pursue LLM from NLUD after graduating from a university in Rajasthan.
The petitions also challenges NLUD's move to increase the seat intake from 80 to 120, saying it was against the express decision of the varsity's governing council and there was also lack of infrastructure like residential hostels for students, accommodation for teaching and other staff and classrooms.
The pleas have claimed that the new admission policy, which provides for the reservation and increased intake, was bad in law as it was notified on January 14, 2020, without approval of the governing council, the plenary authority of NLUD.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for another petitioner Balvinder Sangwan who intended to pursue B.A LL.B from NLUD, said the issue of reservation in admission for the students of Delhi was pending before the Governing Council which had constitute a committee presided over by Supreme Court Judge, Justice NV Ramana, to examine the issue.
The committee's recommendations had yet to be placed before the Governing Council for consideration, the NLUD could not have bypassed the committee and proceeded to reserve seats for students passing qualifying examination from institutions in Delhi.
The high court said that in this scenario, there was no justification for NLUD to have decided to bypass the Governing Council and proceed to reserve seats for Delhi students on the strength of the decision of its Vice Chancellor.
Delhi government standing counsel Ramesh Singh had argued that the State has adopted a policy to provide reservations for candidates passing the qualifying examination from recognised school, college/ institute situated within NCT Delhi and since the Delhi Government is providing funds to the NLUD, it can certainly lay down the criteria for admissions.
The interest of the Government is in protecting its policy and it is for the NLUD to implement the said policy in accordance with law and therefore, no interference is called for in the present case.
The petition has contended that NLUD's decision to introduce the reservation from the academic year 2020-21 was "unconstitutional and illegal".