Reservations for NRIs in NLUs and the Principle of Equality


Reservation, in general, means the act of reserving something or an arrangement to have something or something kept aside. In this article, the author talks about the reservation for NRIs ( Non- Resident Indian) in National Law Universities (NLUs) in India, with respect to the principle of equality. If NLUs are to be seen as the islands of excellence, the reservation for NRIs is providing sailing ships to these privileged classes while all the other people are left swimming in the deep ocean of merit. This article focuses on the above-mentioned aspects only. It provides an overview of the reservations in the NLUs under the NRI quota, its consequences and whether it is constitutionally valid or not.

Reservations for NRIs

Not only NLUs but there are a lot of educational institutions that reserve seats for students under the NRI quota. This reservation is based on the foreign nationality of the students or their NRI status. In this reservation for NRIs, the seats are reserved for those candidates who have their permanent residence in India and an NRI relative is paying for their fee. The fee for the NRI quota is much higher than the fee paid by the candidates, who take admissions in the college through the merit list. Different NLUs offer a different number of seats for such reservations. For instance, NLU Delhi reserves 5 seats[1] for the foreign national category while the WBNUJs ( WB National University of Juridical Sciences) reserve 18 seats[2] for the NRI category. These seats are reserved for the people who belong to the NRI quota and it proves beneficial to the colleges as the fee paid by them is much higher than the fee paid by the other students.

Reservation and the Principle of Equality

The Constitution of India guarantees equality of status and opportunity to everyone. Article 14 of the Constitution of India ensures equality before the law. The main aim of this article is to ensure equality. In simple words, it means that in similar circumstances, all the people shall be treated equally both in the privileges conferred and in the liabilities imposed.

However, the SC also found the validity in the argument that ” the emigrated NRIs had a desire to bring their children back to their country, not just for education but also for the reason that their children could get reunited with the Indian cultural ethos”[3] and unfortunately it upheld the validity of NRI Quota. Moreover, the SC also laid down that the reserved seats under the NRI quota should not exceed 15% of the total seats.

The reservation for NRIs in the NLUs clashes with the principle of equality because normally, students are given admission to these colleges on the basis of their merit list. But in the case of NRIs, special seats are reserved for them, not because of their performance in the entrance test or in the merit list, but because of their foreign nationality or their ability to pay the high amount as compared to the other students.

Also in PA Inamdar Case, Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti said, ” that admissions were being granted to less meritorious students just because they could afford to pay the higher fees sought”. [4]Thus, this NRI quota does not follow the principle of equality. For instance, if there are 40 seats in an NLU and out of that 5 seats are reserved under the NRI quota. The students who scored good marks and were in the second last or last place could also make it to that college if those 5 seats were not reserved. Also, the students who will get admission under the NRI quota, no matter if they scored less than those students in the merit list, will still get admission in that NLU. Here, the principle of equality is not followed because according to that principle, in similar circumstances, every person should get a seat on the basis of his/her merit but here some seats are reserved as special seats for the NRIs.

Constitutionality and Validity of NRI Reservations

The Orissa High Court has recently observed that the reserved seats under the NRI quota for the admissions in National Law Universities are unconstitutional. Moreover, the HC added that it is ” an affront to the meritorious candidates who have worked hard to secure the seats in these NLUs through a common entrance test”.[5]

Hearing a petition, a bench consisting of Justice SK Panigrahi and Sanju Panda, also observed that the category for NRIs is like a ” reservation for the elite class”.[6] The Court also added that the students who belong to the NRI category get seats in the NLUs even if they have low ranks in the merit list whereas the general students who have secured better in the merit list lag behind and are left disappointed.

” This is like the reservation for the elite class and this dubious category of quota is unconstitutional.”[7]

It was also said that the eligibility criteria and the selections under the NRI category are illegal, and arbitrary in nature.

Benefits of NRI Reservations to the NLUs

A study showed that nearly 15 NLUs make around $10 million per year,[8] from this unconstitutional NRI Reservation.

NLSIU Bangalore earns over 1 crore rupees as the fee paid by the students under the NRI reservation. Out of the students who took admissions through NRI reservation, more than 80% [9]did not have their schooling outside India. This clearly indicated that the NRI reservation is a good source of a large amount of money.

The study also revealed that the admissions were conducted on the basis of inconsistent and vague parameters. The amount of fees consumed by them through this NRI reservation is so high that it ranges from 2.77 lakhs – 11.75 lakhs[10] per student. It was also held that the GNLU Gandhi Nagar makes the highest annual revenue per batch, more than Rs. 2.2 crores having 24 reserved seats for NRI students. It is followed by the NUJs Kolkata( 1.48 crores for 21 seats), NLIU Bhopal ( 1.48 crores for 18 seats), and MNLU Mumbai ( 1.1 crores for 10 seats).[11]

The numbers are just staggering. It shows us that why the NRI reservations are beneficial to these institutions, as it brings a huge amount of money to their accounts.


NRI reservation is unconstitutional as special seats are reserved for some people, just because they have a foreign nationality and they can pay much higher fees than the other students. This is beneficial for the NLUs but not for the other students. Those students worked hard to get high ranks in the merit list so that they can get admissions in the best NLUs while on the other hand, there are reserved seats for the NRI students, who can get admissions in those NLUs despite their low rank in the merit list. That is the reason, the NRI reservations are wrong and unconstitutional. It can be called ‘ The Reservations for the Elite’ because the students pay a high amount of fees to get admissions to the colleges.

These reservations should completely be removed so that the students can get admissions in the colleges on the basis of their ranks, their performances in the entrance exam, which is quite fair and not on the basis of their nationality or their ability to pay higher fees.


  1. SCC Online Blog
  2. News 18 
  3. Legally India
  4. Indian Express
  5. The News Minute

This article is authored by Sehaj Sarin, Student at the Law School, Jammu University.

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