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PIL alleges CLAT 2017 tender award dubious, unduly benefited new company

CNLU] Patna accused of compromising CLAT 2017 exam tender
CNLU] Patna accused of compromising CLAT 2017 exam tender

The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2017 convenor CNLU Patna has been dragged to the Patna high court, accused in a public interest litigation (PIL) of awarding an illegal tender to a company to conduct the CLAT, allegedly therefore compromising the quality of the exam.

A Patna resident Divyanshu Shekhar had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) claiming that the tender to conduct the CLAT 2017 was compromised, on the following grounds:

  • The tender was awarded to a bidder that was uncontested, whereas CNLU should have cancelled and reissued the tender when only a single bidder turned up
  • The bidder and, eventually, awardee – Lore India Foundation – wasn’t eligible to bid as it had been incorporated fewer than three years before the 12 October 2016 tender was published, whereas the tender asked for the bidder to have a minimum average annual turnover (Rs 50 crore), in each of the preceding three financial years, from conducting an online or computer based exam. Lore India was incorporated on 28 November 2013, according to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA)
  • CLAT 2017 convenor CNLU Patna did not hold a pre-bid meeting with the CLAT committee despite having no experience of conducting the CLAT until then.

Shekhar added evidence in the PIL indicating the questionable credibility of the tender awardee Lore India.

According to news reports and consumer tribunal complaints that he has produced in the PIL, Lore announced a national scholarship in 2015, worth Rs 5.5 crore for school students, with dignitaries such as NLU Delhi vice chancellor Prof Ranbir Singh and NLSIU Prof Dr V Vijaykumar on its assessing panel. But shortly after the deadline for applying for the scholarship by depositing a fee of Rs 2800 per application, the web link for the scholarship disappeared.

We spoke to one of the advisors on that scholarship panel today, who confirmed that the scholarship offer was dissolved before announcing a winner, due to an insufficient number of applications.

Shekhar has also alleged that CNLU had issued a 19 October corrigendum that changed certain eligibility conditions in the 12 October tender, primarily in order to help Lore fit the criteria and be awarded the tender.

Tender conditions relaxed to benefit sole bidder?

According to copies of the 12 October 2016 tender and the 19 October 2016 corrigendum Shekhar has attached to the PIL, one week after issuing the tender CNLU had relaxed the following criteria:

  • Bidders were originally required to show an average annual turnover of at least Rs 50 crore in the last five financial years. This requirement was deleted in the corrigendum.
  • Bidders were required to show an average annual turnover of at least Rs 10 crore from conducting online or computer-based exams in the last five financial years. This was changed to an average annual turnover of Rs 50 crore in each of the three preceding financial years, from conducting online or computer based exams.
  • Bidders were required to show an infrastructure capability of at least 50,000 computers and access to at least 50 cities at the time of the tender. This requirement was deleted entirely.

Lore charged the CLAT convenor Rs 690 per candidate, for conducting the CLAT, according to CNLU’s response to Shekhar's right to information (RTI) application which he has annexed to the PIL. The CLAT application fee stands at Rs 4000 for general category candidates and Rs 3500 for special category candidates - amounts which are the highest among eight popular competitive exams in India.

At Lore's bid, it would have to part with a little above Rs 3.45 crore, out of more than Rs 20 crore that it made in CLAT revenue this year.

Shekhar’s PIL seeking a stay on this year’s CLAT counselling process was filed through advocate Praveen Kumar Agrawal, was accepted by the high court registry on 5 June, but a date for hearing has not been set yet.

CNLU vice chancellor Dr A Lakshminath was not reachable for comment at the time of going to press and registrar SP Singh declined to comment since the petition was currently sub-judice.

CLAT 2017 had also been challenged in the Delhi high court by a GNLU student for repeated errors in its answer key but the student withdrew his writ after the registry sent it back to him to cure defects.

CLAT, which is conducted by the national law universities (NLUs) in rotation, has a consistent history of conducting an exam riddled with errors since 2009. The Bar Council of India (BCI) told the Supreme Court last year that it would be better suited than the NLUs to take on the charge of conducting the exam.

That said, the BCI in conducting the All India Bar Exam (AIBE), has failed to release a single result of the AIBE on time, has consistently delayed the conduct of the bar exam, and has its own history of dubiously awarding the bar exam tender to companies without much track record.

Read PIL against the 2017 CLAT

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