Successful IDIA scholars reflect a truly diverse mix, comprising candidates from various backgrounds (children of farmers, stone quarry workers, shopkeepers and clerks) and hailing from various states such as Karnataka, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkand, Rajasthan, Bihar, Manipur and Mizoram.
Each one of them has a truly inspiring story.But the most inspiring among this year's scholars is perhaps that of Donnie Ashok, a boy from Kolkata who literally and metaphorically rose from the ashes to secure a seat at one of India’s prestigious National Law Universities (NLU’s), namely GNLU (or Gujarat National Law University). Donnie’s father is a painter by profession with an annual income of less than Rs. 1.5 lakhs. Owing to severe financial problems faced by his family, Donnie’s schooling has been erratic, to say the least. He undertook various types of errands to earn a living, but the money he earned was a pittance compared to his school fees. He could not fund his education, and had to drop out from Class 12.
Fate intervened and he heard about the Increasing Diversity to Increase Access (IDIA) from Ramanuj Mukherjee, a friend of his sister’s, who went on to become his mentor and guide. Ramanuj was an active member of IDIA and a topper of the law entrance at NUJS as well. Donnie scored the first rank in the IDIA Aptitude Test (a test conducted all across India to select deserving underprivileged children that IDIA would support) and was admitted into the programme immediately. IDIA paid his school fees and put him back in school, after persuading his Principal to re-admit him to Class XII despite the delay.
By virtue of sheer grit and single-minded determination, Donnie not only studied for his class XII boards but also burnt the midnight oil to prepare for CLAT (with the help of training by IDIA volunteers along with its partner LST, a leading CLAT coaching centre). Finally his prayers have been answered and hard work rewarded with an All India General Rank of 427 in CLAT 2012. With this rank, the CLAT committee allottted him for admission to the Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.
Late last year, GNLU imposed a new eligibility criterion for admission, stating that a student who does not clear class 12 in the first shot is not eligible for admission at GNLU. As you can appreciate, such a condition is clearly arbitrary and bears no relation to the aptitude of a particular child for the study of law. It is particularly ridiculous, since the main CLAT exam itself can be taken any number of times. Further, the said condition in the brochure goes against GNLU's own regulations which simply require that at the time of coming for admission, the student must have fully passed his or her 12th exams with no back papers. It does not say anything about whether or not the person should clear Class 12 in the first or second shot.
Unfortunately, the GNLU admin seems to suggesting that an informational brochure prevails over the Regulations passed under the GNLU Act. We therefore took the matter to court and the Gujarat High Court (Justice KS Jhaveri) immediately ordered that a seat be left vacant at GNLU, till the matter is resolved. The court has asked both parties to appear tomorrow, wherein we hope that it will pass orders on the relief sought: namely that this highly arbitrary and illegal condition be struck off and Donnie be admitted to GNLU. We filed this writ only this morning, and the court passed the order this afternoon. We're hoping that the matter will be taken to its logical conclusion tomorrow and that Donnie's seat will be fully and finally secured.
IDIA is grateful to a whole lot of lawyers and law students who came out in support of this effort. Dr. Mukul Sinha appeared pro bono for Donnie and was assisted by Mr. RR Mankad. Mr. Protik Prakash Banerjee (Junior Standing Counsel, State of West Bengal), Mrs. Pushpa Menon (Advocate, Madras High Court), Mr. Debesh Panda (Advocate, Supreme Court of India) and PXV Law Partners (Mr. Deepto Roy, Mr. Pingal Khan, Mr. Madhukeshwar Desai, Ms. Rukmini Das) gave us legal opinions in less than 12 hours from GNLU's rejection of Donnie's application. The writ petition was drafted by Mr. Debesh Panda, Mrs. Amrita Panda, Mr. Sannoy Das, Mr. Deepak Raju and Ms. Rukmini Das. We also thank a retired Judge who not only gave Donnie legal advice, but also provided Donnie with accommodation and warm hospitality.
You can download from the petition from here.