CLAT Exam: Last year’s NLU admission data reveals candidates with lower ranks than SC,ST, OBC students paid their way into LLB through NRI quota.
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Team Careers360 | November 27, 2023 | 11:04 AM IST
By Shubham Bhakuni and R. Radhika
NEW DELHI: Merit in the premier National Law Universities (NLUs) is often overlooked when weighed against money.
NLUs, arguably the most illustrious institutions for legal education across India, offer admission with scores as low as nine marks out of the total 150 under the Non-Residential Indian (NRI) quota. However, unlike candidates availing caste-based reservation, they rarely face criticism for ‘diluting merit’.
Admission in 22 of the 23 NLUs is through the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT exam) conducted by a different NLU each year and on behalf of the Consortium of NLUs. An assessment of the CLAT 2022 ranks of individuals accepted to the nine NLUs based on NRI seats reveals that simply appearing for the test would secure an NRI candidate a seat in top NLUs, provided they have the money for it. CLAT 2023 exam date is December 3.
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Last year, a candidate with 40012 rank was able to get admission in Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) Raipur, under NRI or NRI-sponsored quota, in the first round of counselling despite scoring just nine out of 150 in the CLAT. This rank was lower than that of all candidates from the historically-marginalised reserved categories offered admission at HNLU Raipur.
Admission to the seats reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates closed at the all-India Rank of 7137 while for Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Caste (OBC) candidates they were 11,277 and 2061 respectively.
Similarly, at Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (RMLNLU) Lucknow, a candidate with 37492 rank was invited in the first round of admission counselling under the NRI or NRI-sponsored quota after managing only 10 marks out of 150 in CLAT. In the same year, the cut-off rank was significantly higher with admission closing at home state rank of 9582 for an SC student, 27764 for an ST student and 3088 for an OBC candidate.
At Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) Gandhinagar, an NRI candidate with 2816 rank was eligible for admission to LLB course while the cut-off for an OBC candidate was 1878. Likewise, in National Law Institute University (NLIU) Bhopal, a student with considerably higher CLAT rank – 3299 – was offered a seat under the NRI quota. But for the same batch, OBC-category admission closed at rank 1848.
CLAT 2023: Last year’s cut-off ranks
Score (Out of 150)
NLU Odisha, Cuttack
Source: NLU official website *Home State Rank ** Round-1 of counselling
Note: Where data is not available, the field has been left blank
There are 23 NLUs of which 22 admit students through the CLAT exam. The National Law University (NLU) Delhi, has its own AILET (All India Law Entrance Test) exam. Currently, 16 of these 23 NLUs offer NRI or NRI sponsored seats.
The eligibility and selection criteria for NRI seats, as well as the fee structure, are arbitrary and inconsistent with the direction of the Supreme Court. In 2005, the apex court called the NRI quota a “misnomer” and observed that the seats are offered to “less meritorious students” who can afford to pay for a seat.
“By and large, we have noticed in cases after cases coming to this court, 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 judgement read.
Under the NRI Quota, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) are eligible for admission. For applying under the NRI-sponsored category, they must be sponsored by a “first-degree blood relation or second-degree blood relation”. In case there’s no parent or relative, a guardian residing outside India is also considered.
Admission to the seats set aside for ‘foreign nationals’ or people with foreign citizenship are done based on “academic records” of the candidates and these students are not required to sit for CLAT.
“These are some of the most prominent universities of our country. If the cut-offs are very low and the seats are being sold for lakhs of rupees, it is nothing but commercialisation of education instead of providing education with the intent of social justice, equality and high quality education for the students of India,” said President of the All India OBC Students Association Gowd Kiran Kumar.
The tuition fee charged from NRIs, NRI-sponsored, OCI cardholders, and foreign nationals tends to be higher than for other students. But the cut-offs are typically low and provide a way in for low-scoring students most of whom are not eligible for caste or income-based reservation.
In several NLUs, the admissions for NRI and foreign nationals are conducted separately. NRIs are required to appear for CLAT whereas foreign nationals are mostly offered direct admissions.
Moreover, an NRI student pays tenfold the fee charged from an Indian student. The annual fee of an Indian student at the Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai is Rs 83,000; but for an NRI student, it is Rs 8,36,000.
The annual fee for NRI quota at the HNLU Raipur is US $6,000 + Rs 1,00,000 or Rs 6,00,000 for the 2023-24 academic year. Indian students pay Rs 2,10,000 for a year at the same university.
Similarly, NLU Lucknow charges Rs 9,33,275 annual fee which does not include mess fees.
In the 2005 order, the Supreme Court explicitly laid down a 15% cap on NRI and NRI-sponsored seats. Even after 17 years of the judgement, several NLUs offer seats in violation of this order.
MNLU Mumbai does not only offer 20 supernumerary seats to NRI candidates despite the Supreme Court order, it also does not require the sponsor to be related to an NRI-sponsored category candidate. The other NLUs do. Also, the university gives preference to foreign nationals over NRI and NRI-sponsored candidates which gives the opportunity to even more arbitrary admissions without having to qualify the entrance test.
The Gandhinagar and Silvassa campuses of GNLU offer 16 supernumerary NRI seats and five seats to foreign nationals. NLU Jodhpur and RMLNLU Lucknow offer 16 seats each and NLIU Bhopal offers 18 seats in BA LLB and 9 NRI quota seats in BSc LLB programme. All breach the 15% cap.
In 2020, the Odisha High Court directed the Bar Council of India and the Consortium of NLUs to revisit the NRI quota and “prepare a proper regulation and system while implementing this quota”. “This court calls upon the relevant stakeholders, 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. The elitist approach to selected groups in the CLAT Admission process must be restricted. It is imperative that this issue needs to be settled within a shortest possible time to assuage the pains of the unselected due to poor rank,” the court observed.
The BCI, however, is yet to initiate a revision of the admission process based on NRI quota seats.
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