Constitutionality and Legality of Foreign National/NRI/NRI-sponsored Reservation Quotas

The issue of deciding fees and reservation policies has been long contested between the state, and the minority and private institutions before the courts. Most educational institutions reserve seats for foreign nationals/non-resident Indians/NRI-sponsored applicants based on their ability to pay the higher fees charged, and the privilege of either possessing a foreign passport, or just knowing someone who lives on foreign shores. The constitutionality and legality of this quota, and the form and the manner in which it is being implemented in the national law universities is examined.

There has always been a huge outcry against caste-based reservation policies with fervent arguments of how they reflect the death of meritocracy. At the same time, the fact that most educational institutions, including the national law universities (NLUs), reserve seats for foreign nationals/non-resident Indians (NRIs)/NRI-sponsored applicants is ignored. The only necessary qualification to enter these institutions through the said quotas is the ability to pay the higher fees charged, and the privilege of either posses­sing a foreign passport, or just knowing someone who lives on foreign shores. Yet, this quota is never publicly decried. 

Table 1 gives details of the number and percentage of seats reserved for foreign nationals and NRI/NRI-sponsored applicants in all the NLUs. Only two universities do not provide for such reservations, but the overwhelming majority reserves at least 10% of the seats for these groups. The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS), Kolkata and Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU), Mumbai, in fact, violate the only regulation in the area—laid down by the Supreme Court in P A Inamdar v State of Maharashtra (2005)that not more than 15% of the seats ought to be reserved for NRIs. In this controversial decision, where the crux of the matter was whether the state could impose a reservation policy on private institutions, the Court also dealt with the question of the NRI quota, and found it justifiable based on the premise that “the emigrated NRIs had a desire to bring their children back to their country, not just for education but also so that their children could get reunited with Indian cultural ethos.”

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Updated On : 7th Feb, 2018

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