NRI quota in NLU are dubious, ‘reservation for elite’: Orissa HC

 In a pathbreaking judgement, a Division Bench of the Orissa High has observed that the NRI/NRI Sponsored quotas are an affront to meritorious kids; and a dubious category of quota is like ‘reservation for the elite’ and hence unconstitutional

Orissa HC

On October 20, 2020 the Orissa High Court observed that the arbitrary nature of Non-Resident Indian Sponsored (NRIS) quota in National Law Universities defied logic, questioned the eligibility criteria and selection of students under such quota category(ies) and also stated that the process is both vague and based on inconsistent parameters. Furthermore, the practice benefits only those students who can afford to pay more money to secure admissions.

Passing this order in Ishika Patnaik vs National Law University of Odisha and Ors. WP (C) No. 28230 of 2020, the Court has made these observations.  The Bench of Justices S. Panda and S.K Panigrahi directed the Consortium of NLUs, the Bar Council of India and all the stake holders involved in the process to revisit the so-called NRIS quota and prepare a proper regulation and system while implementing this quota. It also asked the relevant stake holders especially the Bar Council of India, which is mandated to regulate the legal education in this country to ensure that a uniform and well-defined parameter is adopted so that the meritorious candidates do not suffer. Mr. B. Routray, appeared for the petitioner and Mr. Prafulla Ku. Rath, represented the National Law University of Odisha and others.

The Division Bench said that this quota is an “affront to the meritorious candidates who toiled day night to secure seats through CLAT. The candidates belonging to the category of NRI/NRIS, who are very low ranked in the merit list often get seats in the NLUs whereas the general candidates having secured better marks also lag behind the NRIS students and get disappointed.”

“This is like the reservation for the elite class and this dubious category of quota is unconstitutional. The eligibility and selection under this category are unregulated, illegal and arbitrary”, the Bench noted. They also referred to an Apex Court ruling in P.A Inamdar and Ors. vs State of Maharashtra and ors (2005) 6 SCC 537, where the 5-judge bench noticed that the term NRI in terms of admissions is a ‘misnomer’ and that “neither the students who get admissions under this category nor their parents are NRIs. In effect and reality, under this category, less meritorious students, but who can afford to bring more money, get admission.”

The Division Bench also suggested that several studies revealed the selection process under this NRIS quota to be “vague, undefined and based on inconsistent parameters.” Considering all these factors the Orissa High Court dismissed the Writ Petition recognizing the need to settle this issue of NRI quota within the shortest time “to assuage the pains of the unselected due to poor marks.”


The Bench was hearing a Writ Petition where the petitioner had challenged the inaction of National Law University, Odisha in not considering her application for admission into the 5-year BBALLB (Hons.) Course under the NRIS category for the academic year commencing 2020. The grievance of the petitioner was that she applied for the entrance examination CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) 2020 conducted by National Law Universities. The petitioner wanted to apply under the NRI Sponsored quota category and accordingly applied through an online form. She submitted through her counsel that due to Covid19 outbreak at the residence, she was unable to click/select the option for “NRI/NRIS Category” and selected the “General Category” option instead. The petitioner logged on to the website on August 15, 2020 to make alterations but the portal took a long time to open and she failed to upload and confirm the changes.

The petitioner then sent a mail to the Vice-Chancellor of National Law University, Odisha and Consortium of NLU on August 17 indicating that due to some technical glitch, she was not able to tick under NRI/NRIs category. “There is always possibility of server down, internet glitch etc. and therefore, it has been advised by the CLAT conducting authority that candidates must apply well before the last date and the petitioner’s name because there tend to be heavy rush on the use of internet on the last date”, recorded the bench.

The Division Bench ruled that the entire process of selecting students based on merit and uploading it on the university website was done in a transparent manner and that “changing the category, at this juncture when the admissions are over, would disturb the entire process and jeopardize the interest of so many students.” Since all the deadline and schedules of counselling were prepared following the direction of the Supreme Court to finish the admission process by August 15, 2020, the Hon’ble Orissa High court said that all NRI/NRIS category seats have been filled and could not entertain the petition further. The observations on the Quota itself could not open a can of worms for the process of admission to Law Universities across India.

The order can be read here:




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