NLSIU Bangalore Under Fire for Discrimination and Shrouded Admissions Procedures

The initial notification for the NLSAT LLB exam explicitly mentioned a capacity of 120 students. Upon thorough investigation, an applicant discovered that only 80 students were accepted, leaving a substantial number of vacancies unoccupied. This discrepancy has prompted significant concerns about the fairness and transparency of the entire admission process.
NLSIU Bangalore
NLSIU BangalorePic- Desi Kaanoon

Bangalore - The National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore has allegedly been discriminating against marginalized students in its admissions procedures, aiming to deny their right to education. A transgender student named Mugil Anbu Vasantha has been engaged in a legal battle since June 2023 against the discriminatory practices faced by them.

Mugil, the petitioner, who is a transgender individual, applied for the 3-year LLB course at the University. Despite participating in the NLSAT-LLB entrance test, the petitioner did not receive affirmative action during the application or admission processes. The university failed to disclose important information such as student rankings, cumulative percentiles, or admissions lists. Additionally, there was a failure to implement the Karnataka State Policy on Transgenders from 2017, along with associated rules, violating the petitioner's rights under Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution. The petitioner also did not receive the entitled reservation in course admissions. As a result, a petition has been filed to address these concerns. The Mooknayak has received documents pertaining to the petition, filed in the Karnataka High Court and is currently pending final judgment.

In a positive interim order from the HC, the student was granted provisional admission to the program in August 2023. Relevant extract of the interim order --

“The respondents have deprived the petitioner's right against the discrimination on the basis of their gender under Article 15(1) Constitution of India by denying them education on par with other protected groups and also violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India which not only protects the petitioner's right to live with dignity but also they are able to fully enjoy their rights including the Right to Education. Further Article 38 of the Constitution of India mandate to secure a social order and to promote the welfare of the people which the respondents have failed to implement. The non-grant of reservation to the transgender person in admission test is patently violative of article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.”

Despite complying with the court order, making an initial deposit of 50,000/- raised through loans, the university has barred the student from completing the process and attending classes, citing non-payment of the full year’s fee (3,75,000/-). Concurrently, the university is actively contesting and resisting the student's entitlement to education and the rights of transgender individuals to reservations. In this process, the university is also infringing upon UGC guidelines on student entitlements, which prohibit institutions from denying education based on financial constraints. The University's financial aid policy, which exclusively caters to individuals with familial ties, communicated to the transgender student, following a thorough month-long evaluation, seeking documentation from the student going back to 2016, that they should secure bank loans up to 12 lakhs to enroll and complete the course. The official website specifies that the university will "conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the applicant's and family's income and wealth" before awarding financial aid, creating challenges for students who are not reliant on or in communication with their biological families to access assistance. Consequently, the student has missed nearly an entire academic year.

In September, the student discovered that several eligible applicants, entitled to existing caste and communal reservations, have also raised challenges to the university’s encountered an unfair and non-transparent admissions process. It has been revealed that despite advertising 120 seats, the University has only occupied 80 seats. An OBC category applicant approached the transgender student via email, sharing information about their efforts to raise concerns and complaints with the University, UGC, and the Karnataka State Education Department. The transgender petitioner has submitted the email and details to the High Court.

In the email, the student has pointed out the following:

1. The initial announcement for the NLSAT LLB exam clearly stated an intake capacity of 120 students. However, to my utter surprise, I found that only 80 students were admitted, leaving a significant number of vacancies unfulfilled. This inconsistency has raised serious doubts regarding the transparency and fairness of the entire admission process. Furthermore, it is distressing to note that despite the vacancies, no further rounds were conducted to fill the remaining seats.

2. This lack of action has not only deprived numerous deserving candidates of an opportunity but has also cast doubts on the credibility and integrity of the selection process. It is essential that all vacancies be filled through a fair and transparent procedure to ensure equal opportunities for all applicants.

3. Equally concerning is the absence of a provided rank list. As an aspiring law student, it is imperative for me to understand where I stand in comparison to my peers. A rank list not only provides transparency but also gives applicants a clear idea of their chances of admission and allows them to plan their future accordingly. The absence of such a list has left me and many other candidates in a state of confusion and uncertainty.

4. In the official notification of NLSAT LLB (page number 3) they have specified that the final admission list will be published by the first week of June 2023, but they have failed to produce the list. I had raised multiple tickets to find out my individual rank, but NLSIU did not respond.

5. It is not clear why NLSIU has undertaken this process, but it raises serious concerns regarding the final intake of all notified reserved categories, such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Economically Weaker Sections, Persons with Disabilities, women, and Karnataka students, who are entitled to specific quotas to ensure a fair and inclusive admission process. With only 80 students admitted, it is highly likely that deserving candidates from these marginalized backgrounds have been overlooked and deprived of their rightful chance to pursue higher education.

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Despite numerous inquiries about the non-disclosure of rank lists, category-wise breakdowns, percentiles, scores, etc., NLSIU, in response to the petition, has asserted, “…there is no basis for the Petitioner’s allegations that non-publication of the rank lists render the admission process opaque, unfair and arbitrary. It is submitted that thousands of students participated in the NLSAT LLB 2023 and have understood and accepted the process.” The transgender candidate learned of their rank solely through the statement of objections submitted in court. According to the University, the transgender student has not been admitted as they received the 62nd rank, but the seats were filled at rank 40. This does not answer how 40 seats are lying vacant. As of now, the consolidated rank list has neither been disclosed nor presented in court. Additionally, it is crucial to highlight that neither the University, UGC, nor the Karnataka State Education Department has responded to or initiated any investigation into the grievances raised by other students.

In September, the Karnataka State Education Department informed the court of its intention to implement reservations for transgender individuals in education. However, no specific timeline or procedures have been outlined, despite the imminent start of the next academic year. Simultaneously, the state is also opposing the admission of the transgender candidate to NLSIU.

Apart from absence of reservations, the transgender student, having relocated to Bengaluru, faces obstacles in pursuing LLB programs in the state of Karnataka. Colleges offering 3-Year LLB programs in the city have conveyed that, in accordance with KSLU norms, registration will be based solely on the name and identity mentioned in the 10th Grade/SSLC certificate. This poses significant hurdles for transgender students. Additionally, being over 30 years of age, the student was informed that their admission is contingent on the outcome of WP (civil) 1023/2016, that deals with KSLU’s proposed age limit of 30 for pursuing LLB programs, currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Both the University and the Karnataka State assert that the Executive Council of NLSIU holds the exclusive right to decide on reservations and all academic and administrative matters of the University. The University contends that the "autonomy" of the Council is paramount, drawing comparisons to IITs and IIMs. Despite the NALSA judgment for 10 years, NLSIU's executive council has chosen not to implement reservations for transgender candidates. Moreover, there is no established system for the fair and transparent implementation of existing constitutional reservations.

The question arises:

Does the autonomy of the Executive Council of any educational institution supersede constitutional guarantees and protections for students marginalized by caste, gender, and disability? Many transgender students relocate from their home states, emphasizing the importance of national institutes providing horizontal reservations for transgender candidates who lack access to state-level reservations. However, effective reservations require oversight and transparent implementation.

Rather than taking corrective measures to ensure the right to education for marginalized communities, the National University opts to allocate resources towards legal challenges against legitimate demands and constitutional protections.

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