The Supreme Court approved the decision of NUJS not to apply new reservation benefits to the batch of 2019-2020 saying that the amendment was prospective. The Bench compromising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and S. Ravindra Bhat heard the matter.
Background of the Case
The grievance was the admission of the Appellant in NUJS in a 5-year law course per the WBNUJS Amendment Act, 2018. The said Act came into the operation on 21st May 2019 which gave 30 % reservation to domicile in West Bengal in the intake of the university. The schedule for CLAT was 12th May 2019 but it was held on 26th May 2019. Results were further declared on 14th June 2019 in which the Appellant ranked 731.
The Appellant’s conflict was that the Act came into operation before the examination therefore the benefit should be subsequently extended by the University for the academic session of 2019-2020. On this factor, the Appellant filed a Petition before the Calcutta High Court. The university had released a brochure to fill 127 seats and as per the brochure, 74 seats were for unreserved category and 10 seats were for domicile students.
The university contended that the information about seats and examination was already given in January 2019, and all the domicile reservation seats were already filled and the last student to get the admission in the domicile category ranked 261. It was also said that the nature of the Act was prospective and did not apply to the current academic year.
Calcutta High Court dismissed the Petition stating that the Act was prospective. They further stated that moving of unreserved category seats to reserved ones would disrupt the whole process of admission and would prejudice the admission process.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh appeared on behalf of the Petitioner. Justice Gupta asked the counsel to see the amendment and said that it was up to the discretion of the university as to when the amendment came into operation. The lawyer, on the contrary, submitted that the amendment itself states that it will come into force immediately
He further stated that the judgment, which stated that if a meritious student had been duly deprived of admission, he should approach the Court to direct the institution to increase the number of seats. Further, if the Court finds any fault in administration, it would reduce the management quota seats. Justice Bhat asked Singh if the judgment was about reservations. It was then clarified that the judgment was about admissions.
Justice Bhat said that allowing this could not predict how many will come later the next year as reservation will be further given. Singh said that the 30% was not disputed, the question was of the method of providing reservation. The examination was held after the amendment came into operation and the Appellant comes within the number stipulated. The WBNUJS Act says that reservation would come in to force from the next year.
Advocate Kunal Chaterji appeared on behalf of the Respondent. He contended that CLAT initially was to be held on 12th May 2019 but was thereby postponed to 26th May 2019 after the amendment came in to force. By this time, students had already filled the form and listed down their preference of colleges as per the previous policy. Knowing about the new reservation policy would have made them choose their home University first.
It was also submitted that even if the reservation was available to the Appellant, he only had a remote chance of getting into the university.
Chatterji then relied upon the case of P. Bhima Reddy v. the State of Mysore and said that the amendment was prospective and not retrospective in nature. This was as the term ‘at once’ meant within a reasonable time. The executive board of the university took reasonable time in implementing the amendment and it was not arbitrary as the admission process started way before the amendment came into force.
Advocate Mehrotra said that the judgment of S. Krishna Sradha would not be applicable here as it spoke about the management quota which does not exist in NLUs.
The Court stated that the amendment came in to force on 21st May 2019, and there was nothing mentioned in the implementation of the amendment in ongoing admission. It was also noted that the admission council resolved on 27th July 2019 that reservation would be applicable from the next academic year only. On 10th August 2020, the executive council accepted this decision.
The Court said that the reserved seats were duly displayed in January at the time of the admission process as the new policy was not yet in force. The action of the university, therefore, was not illegal. The Court also stated that the cases mentioned by the Appellant and the Respondent were irrelevant to the current scenario.
The Supreme Court found no error in the Calcutta High Court’s decision and dismissed the appeal.
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