– Shreyas Alevoor*
This is the first post in an intended two part series on reservation policies of the leading five National Law Universities. It analyses the data from their prospectus/ brochures for the academic year 2020-21 and the IDIA Diversity Survey 2018-19. These NLUs include National Law School of India University, Bangalore (NLSIU), National Academy of Legal Studies and Research University of Law, Hyderabad (NALSAR), the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (NUJS), National Law Institute University, Bhopal (NLIU) and National Law University, Delhi (NLUD), and were selected based on student preferences listed in their application forms for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), barring NLUD, which conducts its own entrance examination. Although not a part of CLAT, NLU Delhi was chosen as one of the top five NLUs surveyed as it is widely regarded as a leading law school.
For the purposes of this article, I analyse the Foreign Nationals (FN), Non-Resident Indian (NRI), Non-Resident Indian Sponsored (NRI(S)) quotas.
FN, NRI and NRI(S) Reservations:
Much ink has been spilled on the infamous trifecta of the FN-NRI-NRI(S) quotas and its constitutional validity. The legal basis for the NRI quota lies in a paragraph of a 2005 Supreme Court judgement in the PA Inamdar case, where the Court laid down the following guidelines:
- Only a limited number of seats, not exceeding 15% should be reserved for NRIs.
- The reserved seats should be utilized bona fide only by NRIs or their children/ wards.
- While conducting admission against these seats, merit should not be given a complete go-by.
- That the money, collected in whatever form from such NRIs, should be used for the benefit of students coming from economically weaker backgrounds.
For the purposes of this article then, the Inamdar judgement raises the following question: how have the leading NLUs defined ‘NRI’ and ‘Foreign Nationals’, and how has it impacted diversity at these NLUs?
As was pointed out in a 2018 paper by Chirayu Jain, NLUs do not have a common definition of who is a foreign national, an NRI and an NRI(S) candidate. NUJS lists one of the criterion to qualify as an NRI/ NRI(S) candidate as someone who is “sponsored by an NRI/ Person of Indian Origin (PIO) / Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) who has bona fide interest in the candidate’s education”. PIO/OCI refer to the respective card holders. For NLIU, it is sufficient that a candidate be a first or second-degree blood relative of an NRI/ PIO card holder/ OCI card holder.
One of the reasons stated by the Court in Inamdar for allowing NRI quotas was to enable the NRI children to be “re-united with the Indian cultural ethos”. The NUJS and NLIU rules practically ensure that even a student who has spent their entire life in India and completed their education here can be admitted under this category if they have a relative abroad who is merely willing to sign the sponsorship certificate. This is confirmed from an independently conducted diversity survey at NUJS in 2019 which shows that inspite of 81 students identifying themselves as being admitted on the NRI/ NRI(S) quota from 2014-2018, only 10 out of the 540+ students of NUJS across the five batches surveyed resided outside India.
NLSIU, NALSAR and NLUD do not reserve seats under the NRI or NRI(S) quota. However, they do reserve a considerable number of seats under the FN quota. In addition to reserving 5 seats under the FN category, NLUD also reserves 5 seats under the PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India) quotas (as on 07 July 2020).
While FNs are exempted from taking CLAT, and are directly selected by the NLUs themselves, CLAT instructions mandate that NRI/ PIO/ OCIs appear for the exam. This means that a foreign national holding a PIO/ OCI card has two chances of being selected: one, through the FN quota, or by appearing for CLAT.
In a 2004 judgement of the Calcutta High Court, it was ruled that while reservations guaranteed by the Constitution with an aim to ensure equality were acceptable, any other exception in favor of a certain select group is to be subjected to the strictest scrutiny. While this judgment is only applicable to West Bengal, under the scheme laid down in Inamdar, NRI(S) quotas are arguably unconstitutional since students admitted under the quota are not necessarily NRIs, or children/ wards of NRIs. Considering that these candidates gain an unfair advantage due to their already privileged status, and that CLAT-2020 and AILET-2020 are slated to be conducted in the next few weeks, it is important that the Courts/the Consortium of NLUs/NLU-D settle this issue immediately.
* Shreyas Alevoor is a student of National Law University Odisha, and is currently a Core-Committee member at the IDIA-Odisha chapter.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author alone. They do not reflect the official position of IDIA Charitable Trust. The facts have been compiled by the author and we make no representations as to their accuracy or validity. We will not be liable for any errors, or omissions. Readers are advised to verify the facts.
 Chirayu Jain, ‘Reservation for the elite: Why don’t we blame NRI quota for ‘death of meritocracy’?’, (TNM, 20 March 2018) <https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/reservation-elite-why-don-t-we-blame-nri-quota-death-meritocracy-78240> accessed 07 June 2020; Chirayu Jain, ‘Constitutionality and Legality of Foreign National/ NRI/ NRI Sponsored Reservation Quotas’ (EPW, 3 February 2018) <https://www.epw.in/journal/2018/5/notes/constitutionality-and-legality-foreign-nationalnrinri-sponsored-reservation> last accessed 07 June 2020.
 AIR 2005 SC 3226.
 The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) (https://mea.gov.in/Portal/CountryQuickLink/703_PIO-OCI.pdf) defines a PIO as a foreign citizen (barring nationals of certain countries) who,
- at any time has held a foreign passport; or
- either of their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were born and permanently resident in India as defined in Government of India Act, 1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries (as referred above); or
- is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO. Last accessed 07 July 2020.
 The MEA defines OCI as “a foreign national, who was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26.01.1950 or was a citizen of India on or at anytime after 26.01.1950 or belonged to a territory that became a part of India after 15.08.1947. Such person is eligible for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). Minor children of such person are also eligible for OCI. However, if the applicant had ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, he/she will not be eligible for OCI.” (https://mea.gov.in/Portal/CountryQuickLink/703_PIO-OCI.pdf) defines a PIO as a foreign citizen (barring nationals of certain countries) Last accessed 07 July 2020.
 https://nujs.edu/downloads/admissions2020/nri2020-admission-process.pdf. Last accessed 12 June 2020.
 https://consortiumofnlus.ac.in/clat-2020/nlus/brochure/NLIU.pdf. Last accessed 12 June 2020.
 https://consortiumofnlus.ac.in/clat-2020/nlus/brochure/NALSAR.pdf. Last accessed 07 July 2020.
 https://nludelhi.ac.in/download/ailet-2020/BA.LLB(Hons)%202020.pdf. Last accessed 07 July 2020.
 https://consortiumofnlus.ac.in/clat-2020/ug-instructions.html. Last accessed 07 July 2020.
 Chayan Kr. Roy and Ors. v. Chairman/ Chairperson, Central Selection Committee (M) and Ors.