I gave CLAT 2021 and while I was going through the seat matrix of different NLUs, the allotment of seats in Gujarat National Law University startled me. There has been a violation of the fifty per cent cap of reservation (laid down in the Indra Sawhney case, and confirmed in the recent Maratha judgment) by the prestigious Gujarat National Law University situated in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, governed by the Consortium of NLU’s.
NONCOMPLIANCE WITH THE OFFICIAL SEAT MATRIX:
On 26th October 2020, the official seat matrix for the undergraduate law programme of five years was published by GNLU. The seat matrix showed a total of 115 seats allocated for the General category. A total of 65 seats were reserved under vertical reservation. On All India seats, a horizontal reservation of 30% was made in favour of Female candidates, 5% of seats for Specially Abled Persons/Persons with Disability (PWD) category and 25% of seats was made in favour of candidates of Gujarat Domicile, cutting across all the above categories. In this seat matrix, no mention of any kind of reservation for the OBC and the EWS category was specified.
Subsequently, on 1st August 2021, the first allotment list for admission under the undergraduate programme was released. Contrary to the earlier mentioned reservation scheme, 67 seats were allotted to OBC and EWS category students. A total of 66 (36.6% of the total seats) seats were allotted to the general category students, instead of the 115 mentioned number in the official seat matrix of the university. You can find the new breakup here.
LANDMARK CASES MANIFESTING A 50% CAP:
Recently, the Maratha reservation was quashed by the Supreme Court, stating that in case the 50% ceiling is breached, “the society won’t be based on principles of equality but on caste rule. This ceiling has been decided by placing reliance on the principle of reasonability and achieves equality as enshrined by Article 14 of which Articles 15 and 16 are facets”. In the landmark case of M. R. Balaji v. The State of Mysore (1963), the government’s 68% reservation on college admissions was deemed excessive and unreasonable and was capped at 50%. The seat allocation by GNLU is violative of the 50% cap on the reservation.
In the State of Kerala vs NM Thomas case in 1975, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court considered all of the matters pertaining to the 50 percent ceiling and noted that the percentage of reservation would be contingent on the factual information and circumstances of the particular case, and that no definitive rule could be established. The court held that, “the quota matter cannot be reduced to a mathematical formula to adhere in all cases uniformly”. The Supreme Court illustrated that “if a state government provides 80% reservation based on the population of backward classes in that state being 80%, the policy cannot be faulted with”.
NO EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES:
In the Maratha judgment, the Court also held that the 50% circumstances can be breached under extraordinary circumstances.
Report of the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes states that “The task of ascertaining the social and educational backwardness of any class of people is a highly complexed one, as besides the caste, a number of factors such as income level, nature of occupation, mode of life, habitation, proportion of literacy of educated persons etc., have to be taken into account. With a view to making a discrimination in favour of any class of citizens other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the popular belief of general knowledge of the backwardness would not be an adequate criteria”.
It was laid out in the Indra Sawhney judgement that, “while 50% shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people. It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the mainstream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristical to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative. In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.”
Simply reserving seats for more than 50% of the batch strength, without determining actual social standing of and providing reservation to students belonging to the genuine backward regions of the states is illegitimate, and does not come under ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
I wrote an email to the vice-chancellor of GNLU but did not receive any reply. I reached out to some law aspirants who had dreamt of studying in GNLU and had secured a decent rank in CLAT 2021, but because of this seat distribution matrix, they won’t be able to join GNLU.
GNLU is a prestigious university and hundreds of students aspire to take admission in this institution every year. It is imperative to quash the present seat matrix followed for the allocation of seats in UG programme 2021 (1st counselling list) and allot the seats according to the division given on the official website of GNLU. The general category students should be given 115 seats (as mentioned on the website previously) and the seats allocated to OBCs and EWSs should be reduced because there was no mention of these two categories in the official seat matrix of the University. Further, I hope that the concerned authorities take appropriate action against the unconstitutional seat matrix of Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar. It is necessary to impose a 50% cap on reserved seats in the University, or have proper reasons for doing otherwise.