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CLAT rift: NLSIU ‘completely disassociates from CLAT 2020’ after consortium stripped VC (but not Law School) of powers

Reconciliation between CLAT and NLS looking increasingly unlikely, at least in 2020, as borders being drawn
Reconciliation between CLAT and NLS looking increasingly unlikely, at least in 2020, as borders being drawn

The cold war that has mostly been fought via press releases between the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) Consortium and NLSIU Bangalore, after the latter’s shock decision to hold its independent entrance test last week, has escalated.

The CLAT consortium of all national law university (NLU) vice-chancellors (except for NLU Delhi) had passed a resolution yesterday, followed by a press release today (PDF), stating:

The Members of the Consortium unanimously resolved that the recent actions of Professor Sudhir Krishnaswami, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, NLSIU, Bangalore, and particularly his unilateral decision of going ahead with his own independent test are in derogation of the Bye-laws and the Objectives of the Consortium.

Since the Vice Chancellor, NLSIU is the Secretary- Treasurer of the Consortium, in the light of the clear conflict of interest between these the functions of the Consortium and his decision to hold independent test for NLSIU, the Consortium unanimously resolved to divest him of his functions as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Consortium with immediate effect. He is advised not to discharge these functions and not speak for the Consortium in any manner nor represent the Consortium in any proceeding till further decision in this matter is taken by the Governing Body.

A member of the consortium confirmed to us, however, that the resolution did not remove NLSIU Bangalore itself from the consortium.

However, NLS has just now responded with a counter press release (PDF) response, doing exactly the latter.

NLSIU’s registrar wrote in the nine-paragraph release, which made a number of responses to the CLAT consortium’s position:

However, given the statements of the Consortium in its Press Release of 6 September, NLSIU, and its Vice Chancellor, have no alternative but to completely disassociate from CLAT 2020.

No member of the University, including the Vice Chancellor or any member of staff shall hereafter participate in CLAT 2020 in any manner, administratively or otherwise.

There are several ways to interpret this.

On the one hand, NLSIU clearly called the CLAT consortium’s bluff, which puts it in a somewhat easier position vis-a-vis any legal challenges: if NLSIU is out of the CLAT, it may not be bound by the CLAT consortium’s bylaws anymore (at least for this year’s CLAT) and could try to argue that it may not have an alternative entrance exam available to it anymore. (However, it might have helped its case had the consortium evicted it, rather than NLS disassociating itself in response).

On the other hand, the CLAT consortium did not have many options either.

We understand that a lot of the NLU VCs are privately furious (according to one tweet from last week, the authenticity of which we could not confirm but which reflects what several VCs have told us, “OUR VC just said that there will be a meeting to ‘deal with the mess that Sudhir has created in Bangalore’ ? this might be my fav gossip ever”).

Apart from putting the CLAT into an even bigger crisis than its repeated postponements have put it in, many of the VCs see NLSIU’s decision to roll its own entrance test as a deliberate backstabbing of the consortium, especially since NLSIU had apparently been planning the move for months but had not shared it with the rest of the members.

That said, NLSIU in its latest press release is effectively saying that the consortium should have known that NLS would Claxit, having “on several occasions raised concerns about the delay”.

NLSIU claimed that it had “proactively presented several options to the Consortium to ensure the conduction of the CLAT 2020”, including:

  • Carving out an exception for NLUs to design their own admission process for 2020-21 as a single national examination may not be feasible in 2020;
  • Allowing for CLAT 2020 to be conducted in two or more series so that Universities may choose either the earlier or later date series;
  • Allowing for individual NLUs to conduct an examination, permitting CLAT-enrolled candidates to appear for a separate examination with no further need for registration or fee payment;

According to NLS, the other NLUs, however, “repeatedly rejected” those options:

On the one hand the Consortium was unwilling to confirm the date for the conduct of CLAT 2020. On the other it was unable to consider any of the options proposed b NLSIU, or permit individual NLUs to develop their own approach in the exceptional circumstances presented in a COVID-affected academic year.

Furthermore, NLS noted that the last two decisions to postpone the CLAT (on 5 August and 27 August) were “not taken unanimously as has previously been reported” (for the record, our earlier reports did not state that the decisions had been reached unanimously).

According to NLSIU

United front by remaining CLAT NLUs

The CLAT consortium, meanwhile, used their press release as a show of a united front,

The Consortium of National Law Universities unanimously reiterated its decision to hold the CLAT on 28th September, 2020 as announced earlier. Except NLSIU, Bangalore, no other Law University is going to hold its test independently as was erroneously reported in the social media. The interview of Professor Sudhir Krishnaswami, Hon’ble Vice- Chancellor, NLSIU, Bangalore, to Bar and Bench was purely his personal opinion. No other member University is neither feeling hard pressed in the Consortium nor has any plans of conducting its own independent admission test for 2020.

Krishnaswamy had told Bar & Bench in an interview last week that “I don’t see it as a contest at all. Frankly, we might have been the first to stick our heads out, but there are other universities which are hard-placed. We are not the only university that feels this way.” (he also added “we will engage with the Consortium in a very robust and constructive way. We think that many of these things can be resolved quite easily” - the time for that has clearly passed now).

Administratively, the CLAT consortium has had to restructure somewhat to continue functioning.

Control of the official CLAT website, as well as the “secretarial and administrative functions” have been handed to Nalsar Hyderabad vice-chancellor (VC) Faizan Mustafa.

The treasury function has been passed on to NLU Odisha (which convened last year’s CLAT) vice-chancellor KD Rao.

[documentcloud NLS withdraws from CLAT

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