Like with the previous years, most National Law Universities have failed to adhere to the statutorily mandated reservation for Specially Abled Persons, this year as well. In this regard, we bring to you an extensive analysis of this issue by Harshit Pande, an Assistant Director with IDIA.
Non-Compliance with Statutory Quotas by National Law Universities
-Harshit Pande (Assistant Director, IDIA)
It appears that most National Law Universities (‘NLUs’) have taken a conscious decision to make themselves inaccessible for Specially Abled Persons (‘SAP’). While The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 required educational institutions to reserve 3 percent of their seats for students belonging to the SAP category, The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which has been in force since December 2016, requires every government educational institution and every educational institution receiving aid from the government, to reserve 5 percent of its seats for persons with benchmark disabilities (Section 32). A person with ‘benchmark disabilities’ in turn has been defined in Section 2(r) of the 2016 Act as “a person with not less than forty per cent of a specified disability where specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with disability where specified disability has been defined in measurable terms, as certified by the certifying authority;” As with the previous years, this year’s admissions to NLUs too have failed to ensure compliance with the statutory minimum reservation prescribed for SAP candidates. The shortcomings of the previous years have been well documented in the affidavits filed in the Supreme Court as part of the public interest petition filed by Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer.
Given that the admissions process for the academic year 2018-19 is still on, the official admissions statistics are unavailable (and, as it turns out, the universities are not very good at publishing these every year). Although the first round of allotments has been completed, a publicly accessible allotment list is unavailable. Readers may recall that we had highlighted this issue earlier, and had in fact made a representation in this regard to the CLAT Implementation Committee.
This piece, then, takes the data available either on the websites of respective NLUs or their brochures (the brochures have been accessed from the CLAT website http://information.clat.ac.in/). In a number of cases, there are discrepancies between the information available on the brochure and on the website, creating significant confusion. It needs to be pointed out that both the websites as well as the brochures are laced with completely avoidable errors.
The Numbers: A Comedy of Errors
|S. No.||University||Total Sanctioned Seats||Seats Reserved for SAP||Percentage Reserved|
(Reserved only for Maharashtra State candidates)
|2||MNLU-Nagpur||120||Not mentioned||Not Mentioned|
|7||NUSRL||120||4 (2 seats for Jharkhand candidates, 2 seats for candidates from other states)||3.33|
|8||NLUO||180||6 (as per brochure); and
9 (as per website)
|3.33 or 5 depending on the number of seats reserved|
|14||HNLU||160 (80 All India+80 Chhattisgarh domiciled)||Not mentioned||5|
|16||WBNUJS||127||3 (as per brochure); and
6 (as per website)
|2.36 or 4.72 depending on the number of seats reserved|
|17||NLIU||120||5||Website mentions 5 per cent, the brochure mentions 5 seats; possible misprint|
|19||NLSIU||80||4||5 (brochure mentions 3 per cent, another possible misprint)|
Table showing the number of sanctioned seats against number of seats reserved for SAP and percentage of seats reserved for SAP for the Undergraduate Course. Please note that a few universities mention only numbers of seats reserved for SAP, while others mention percentages.
NLUs that largely adhere to the legal mandate
For the current admission year, NLSIU, Bangalore has reserved 4 out of 80 seats for SAP (as per the information available on the website). This comes to 5%, which is the legal requirement. However, the brochure for the year 2018-19, perhaps due to a possible misprint, mentions the percentage of seats reserved for SAP as 3.
Other NLUs which are largely compliant are NALSAR, NLUJ, HNLU, GNLU, RMLNLU, RGNUL, CNLU, NUALS, NLUJAA and MNLU-Mumbai, all of which, as per their brochures uploaded on the CLAT website, reserve the mandated 5% seats for SAP. However, their respective websites are dismal when it comes to ease of access, and their reliability as a source of correct information is extremely doubtful.
The 2018 brochure for TNNLS mentions that a total of 6 seats out of 104 (5.77%) are reserved for SAP both under All India category and Tamil Nadu category for the B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) and B.Com. LL.B.(Hons.) degree programme. It is unclear how the allocation of seats to SAP from within and outside the state of Tamil Nadu takes place and under what circumstances preference is given to PWDs from TN over PWDs from all over India except TN.
NLUs that disregard the legal mandate
According to the brochure published on the CLAT website, NLUO reserves 6 out of 180 seats for Persons with Disabilities, which comes to 3.33 %. However, the university’s website mentions that 9, not 6, seats are reserved for SAP. If the information on the website is to be relied upon, they do adhere to the 5% legal mandate.
The WBNUJS brochure mentions that 3 seats will be reserved for PWDs, while the recently updated website mentions that 6 seats will be so reserved (which comes to 2.36% and 4.72% for 3 and 6 seats, respectively). Even with the 4.72%, WBNUJS falls short of the legal mandate, as the rule of rounding off (as highlighted in our affidavits to the Supreme Court) requires that “if part is one-half or more, its value shall be increased to one”. Likewise, NLIU has 120 seats of which 5 seats have been reserved for SAP (which comes to 4.17%). However, their website mentions a quota of 5%. This is another case of possible misprint. These discrepancies can cause significant confusion.
Another fact that needs to be highlighted is that in some cases, if the total number of NRI seats are excluded from the sanctioned strength, the number of seats reserved does reach or even exceed the legally mandate percentage. For instance, the NLIU brochure mentions that 5 seats will be reserved horizontally under the SAP quota. The sanctioned strength at NLIU is 120 seats, of which 18 seats are reserved under the NRI quota and 2 under the supernumerary quota for persons from Jammu and Kashmir. If the number of of seats is taken to be 100 (i.e. excluding the 18 NRI seats and 2 supernumerary seats), the stated 5 seats reserved under the SAP quota fulfill the legal mandate of 5%. However, the SAP reservation percentage has to be applied on the total sanctioned strength.
Two of the three MNLUs are the latest to join the club of national law universities failing to adhere to legally mandated reservation requirements. MNLU Aurangabad reserves 3% of its seats for only those persons with disabilities who are permanent residents of the state of Maharashtra. It appears from the brochure of MNLU-A that persons with disabilities from the All India Quota are ineligible for reservation. MNLU Nagpur has no mention of reservations for SAP either on the website or in the brochure. MNLU Mumbai, on the other hand, stands apart- it reserves the mandated 5% seats for SAP, with no restrictions as to the domicile of the applicant.
DSNLU reserves 3% of its seats for SAP according to the brochure. NUSRL reserves 4 out of 120 seats (totalling 3.33%), of which 2 are for persons from within the state of Jharkhand and 2 for persons from outside.
These discrepancies are further amplified by the fact that the CLAT Committee refuses to publish a consolidated rank list for the different categories. In the absence of such a list, there will be significant confusion. The general opacity of the entire process, coupled with the fact that there are numerous discrepancies in the information made available, gives plenty scope for university administrations to abuse the admission process.
The existing state of affairs displays an unwillingness on the part of universities to make themselves accessible. The universities and the CLAT committee seem bent on putting unnecessary hurdles in the path of candidates, when they should be in fact setting the example as nation’s premier law schools.
Persons who run websites and create brochures need to be sensitised to what access means and how their carelessness or acts of overlooking can harm the already disadvantaged. No doubt the arithmetic of reservations is difficult to understand, even more difficult to implement. But, the principles of equal access, of equality of opportunity are not completely inaccessible and may be understood with just a little bit of thought.