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CLAT should cost Rs 1,500: MHRD report damns Nuals for abysmal 95% profit margin on CLAT

Nuals shocks MHRD with extent of CLAT irresponsibilityNuals shocks MHRD with extent of CLAT irresponsibility

The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) should not cost law aspirants more than Rs 1,500 recommended a government committee that found it “egregious” that the national law universities (NLU) were making a profit of 90-95% on the joint entrance exam which currently has an application fee of Rs 4,000.

Read the full report here or below.

It reported that the “committee strongly feels that examination fees charged is way above the required finances for conduct of the examination. CLAT is being conducted for many years now and it is apparent that no attempt has been made to rationalise the fee with the trends of past expenditure”.

The committee, constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) following the Supreme Court’s direction in the challenge filed before it by CLAT 2018 aspirants, found that the Rs 25.7 crore revenue-making exam with a profit of Rs 23.1 crore had “serious issues” of mismanagement and minimal involvement from CLAT 2018 convenor Nuals Kochi in understanding and rectifying them.

The committee found that Nuals’ involvement with the exam was “primarily administrative”, that it was barely aware of the magnitude and extent of mismanagement of CLAT 2018 and that it had treated its mandate as a “turn key” project to be handed over to the exam’s technical contractor Sify Technologies.

It wrote: “It is pertinent to note that despite serious issues raised regarding the conduct of the CLAT 2018 there is no evidence of active involvement of Nuals Kochi in understanding or evaluating the scale/type of problems till the constitution of Grievance Redressal Committee and in performing a root cause analysis with the help of technical experts.”

Sify Technologies, on its part, had not made a proper attempt to find the causes of and solutions for the errors in the conduct of this exam, said the report.

Nuals and Sify draw a blank

The committee, comprised of IIT Kanpur engineering department director Prof Manindra Agrawal, NTA director general Vineet Joshi, AIIMS Dr Ashok Kumar Jaryal and IIM Lucknow Prof Neeraj Dwivedi, met four times in October and made some notable observations and recommendations in its report:

  • Lack of any documentation with Nuals and Sify related to malfunctioning of computer systems at such a large scale came as a surprise to the committee.
  • Sify did not follow through on its role to address technical glitches in CLAT 2018 and Nuals was unaware of the scale of malfunctioning until the constitution of the grievance redressal committee (GDR).
  • It was surprising to note that Nuals was not aware of the magnitude, exact nature of the problems, solutions attempted by Sify and the decision process for determining the amount of time extension neither on the exam day nor until constitution of the GDR. There is discrepancy in the versions of Nuals and Sify regarding the decision-making process implemented during the currency of the exam in real time.
  • Nuals Kochi left technical control as well as post-exam analysis to Sify. It only was involved in preparation and encryption of the question paper.
  • Nuals Kochi grossly underestimated and under-perceived the scale of the problem on the day of the exam and perhaps after.
  • Sify does not know the cause of the problem that caused technical glitches including recurring login and screen freezing issues for the duration of the exam. It made no sincere attempt to find out the cause of the problem.
  • Nuals has already withheld the Rs 1.14 crore fee it owes to Sify for conducting the CLAT 218, and the law school has itself incurred legal fees of Rs 1 crore in appearing in the petitions launched in various courts by numerous CLAT 2018 candidates. As per the tender document, Sify is to indemnify Nuals against this legal fee and also bear an additional cost of 10% of its fee for conduct of the exam in addition to being barred from contesting a CLAT tender for at least the next three years.

Incremental learning

  • CLAT loses out on the opportunity for incremental learning from its previous experiences by publishing a fresh tender each year for its technical partner and foregoing on historical data of candidates that lies with the previous contractor. Contractors should be selected instead for 2-3 years.
  • Incremental and cumulative learning is critical for developing standard operating procedures, checklists, decision making algorithms. In principle this is very difficult to achieve the same with change of organising NLU and service provider every year.
  • CLAT needs an audit report prepared by each new NLU convening the CLAT, to be handed over the the successive convenor with recommendations on statements of purpose, checklists etc., the command centre at each new convenor to include a member from the NLU that convened the CLAT in the previous year and a dedicated team of technical analysts outsourced from government agencies.
  • Instead of a new NLU convening the CLAT each year and therefore losing out on the exam’s battle against cheating by unscrupulous candidates, a government body experienced in conducting such exams should conduct the CLAT each year.

The government’s National Testing Agency (NTA) is open to take on the mandate for conducting the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) from 2019 onward, while the Bar Council of India (BCI) has re-asserted that it is the only body suitable to conduct the CLAT going forward, as we had reported last week.

In October the NLU consortium established a seven member semi-permanent body comprising of NLSIU Bangalore, Nalsar Hyderabad and NLIU Bhopal as permanent members to conduct the CLAT, 2019 onward.

Money money money?

In the NLUs’ defense, if one were to attempt such a thing, the CLAT has long been a revenue source for the NLUs, some of which have faced serious funding shortfalls and have relied on the CLAT fees to shore up their finances, as we had reported in 2015.

Generally, the lion’s share of CLAT profits goes to the convening NLU, which rotates every year, with the remainder being divided between the other NLUs:

According to a variety of financial accounts proactively disclosed by colleges or obtained by Legally India under the Right to Information Act, each non-convening college received the following amounts: Rs.17.4 lakh in 2008 (in NLSIU Bengaluru’s CLAT); Rs.25 lakh in 2009 (from Nalsar); Rs.21.9 lakh in 2010 (from National Law Institute University, Bhopal); and Rs.22 lakh in 2011 (from NUJS, Kolkata).

The convening college in those years could have then earned Rs.1-2 crore or more.

However, whether law aspirants - many of whom won’t make the CLAT cut - should be footing such bills is morally more dubious, particularly when the aim behind NLUs is also to encourage those from non-traditional backgrounds to receive a decent legal education.

Read full CLAT committee report (PDF)

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