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"Who is this reservation for? Reservation must be to uplift, not to make their life easy...this reservation is for students from elite schools", the Court observed in today's hearing.
Opining that the 25% domicile reservation proposed to be introduced at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore appears to be for "students from elite schools", the Karnataka High Court today questioned the state government on who would be ultimate benefactors of the amendment.
A Division Bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Ravi Hosmani orally observed,
Karnataka High Court
After two days of extensive hearing, the Bench took note of the the wide array of arguments made by Senior Counsel KG Raghavan and Advocate CK Nandakumar.
When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, Raghavan argued that the Amendment Act in question was violative of Articles 14 and 19 (1) (g). There is no rational basis for making a distinction between Karnataka students and other students, submitted Raghavan.
In an attempt to provide further clarity, Raghavan explained that earlier, under SC/ST reservation, 22.5 seats are reserved out of a total of 100. One could compete for remaining 77 seats in the General category.
However, after the introduction of the Amendment Act, only 58 seats would be available in the General category, Raghavan informed the Court.
Raghavan further submitted that no real reasons were pointed out by the state government to enact the said Amendment Act. He went on to say,
"9 of 18 Law Schools have provided for institutional reservation. This is the only premise for NLSIU to have effected Domicile reservation. Others are doing it, so we are also doing it. Is this a sufficient reason for making reservation for Karnataka students?"
Raghavan then argued that the state government had very minimal control in the affairs of NLSIU. Adding on, it was stated that the entire idea of setting up the University, management etc. of NLSIU was by somebody else.
On hearing this submission, the Bench asked,
"Is it (NLSIU) a creature of Bar Council?"
"It is a creature of the Bar Council and has the blessings of the State".
Another argument raised by Raghavan was that for any reservation to be constitutionally permissible, the same should fall under the ambit of Articles 15(4) and (5).
The Court, however, failed to concur with the Senior Advocate on this aspect. It said,
"So long as any reservation does not fall foul of Article 15 (1), it is permissible."
"If Art 15 (1) was enough, then why was there an introduction to Art 15 (4)? Any reservation should fall within the exceptions carved out in 15 (4) and 15 (5)", Raghavan responded.
With this, he further said that unless the state government was able to bring the Amendment Act under the narrow width of Article 15 (5), it would fall foul of the Constitutional scheme.
Raghavan also raised concern over the criteria for a Karnataka student to avail the benefits of the reservation scheme. As per the Amendment Act, a Karnataka student should have completed 10 years residing in the state.
"Suppose a student did his 11th and 12th in Karnataka, but he was not there in state for 10 years, such a student will not be a Karnataka student under the Amendment Act", submitted Raghavan.
The Court went on to ask,
"10 years preceding qualifying examination, what does it mean? Suppose a student studies from 1st to 10th in Karnataka and 11th,12th, he does it in Madras, will he be eligible for the reservation?"
A Karnataka student may be forward in a socio-economic aspect, but still, he/she may get reservation if the condition of 10 years is met, Raghavan concluded.
Next to make submissions was Nandakumar, who contended that the effect of the amendment violates the powers of the Executive Council of NLSIU. This is in repugnance to provisions of the Parent Act, he said.
Further, he submitted that the role of the state government under the Parent Act was very limited.
Nandakumar also argued that the burden of justifying the need for such a reservation is fairly on the state government. The State has to justify that reservation is for backward regions or in State interest, he submitted.
The State, in turn, has not produced a "single scrap of paper" for justifying its actions, Nandakumar further told the Bench.
"The state government has not shown any reason to argue that students of Karnataka are in need of reservation. I would say that students of Karnataka are doing very well and are in no need of this reservation......Karnataka's population in the whole country is 5%. In NLSIU, number of students from Karnataka totally come up to 35 out of 354, which is roughly 10%. Prima facie, the representation of Karnataka students in NLS is far in excess of the state's population."
The matter will be next heard on August 26.