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NLAT hearing: 17% raised ‘queries’ after exam day, NLS told court (not 5%) [Hearing over: To continue tomorrow]

The Supreme Court has been hearing the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) challenges since 10:30.

17 September 2020: Day 2 liveblog now being updated here.

LiveLaw and Bar & Bench are live tweeting the hearing held via video conference.

Senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta has been arguing on behalf of the CLAT consortium.

11:49: Gupta has just told the bench that 4,680 candidates had raised ‘queries’ (presumably meaning having faced issues in the exam and potentially be eligible for the retake), according to NLS’ affidavit.

That would be a 17% rate of issues on the first day of exams, as opposed to only 5.4% of registered candidates who did not manage to take the exam as NLS had first press released.

Correction: We had initially mis-stated that NLS claimed only 4% were not able to take the exam, when the actual number provided by NLS had been 5.4%. The error is regretted.

11:55: In summary, Gupta has so far in detail shared with the bench things such as NLS’ lack of academic council (AC) approval when it left the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT).

He has also at length explained how the home-proctored test was taken at home - initially eliciting surprise from the bench - giving examples of how the proctoring guidelines would not have be enough to catch determined cheaters (many of which we have reported on before, such as the 55 seconds candidates have to elude a proctor, the super-low-tech ability of someone else to sit beside you, whisper answers and hide if a proctor calls you up).

He also mentioned how the re-test was leaked during the exam.

After the bench had made a quip about exams during the pandemic, Gupta shared a humourous anecdote of a physics candidates who had so many cheat sheets secreted about his body that one of the cheat sheets was an index to the other cheat sheets.

12:04: Gupta begins closing, summarises his arguments: No competence with the EC, AC was the body, by laws don’t permit, zero year argument was a boogey, and thousands of students had technical issues, there were only 35 test centres to appear at. CLAT has 230 centres.

He adds that not all candidates would have access at home to the technology required.

12:06: Senior advocate Datar Arvind is now up.

Update: Thanks to a commenter for spotting this gem:

Live Law tweeted:

Datar: We worked on this (Rejoinder) overnight, not even 48 hours on hand. Justice Shah: That is a last minute preparation for you, much like exams

— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) Wed, 16 Sep 2020, 12:10

12:10: Datar begins with locus standi for the petitioners (as highlighted in the affidavits yesterday).

Some are objecting to that line, since senior counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan is representing the petitioners and he has not argued yet.

Sankaranarayanan is arguing, inter alia, the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) universities had promised Supreme Court ealrier that they would carry out a joint exam.

12:17: He’s arguing that the format had changed completely from CLAT to NLAT, which was changed at hte last minute: there was absolute silence from NLS about the possibility they would do a different exam (from 2 hours to 45 minutes, from 150 marks to 40 marks, from offline to home-proctored online exam).

Neither was any of this mentioned to the CLAT consortium at any meetings until NLSIU’s surprise Claxit (our words, not his).

12:22: NLIU Bhopal also has a trimester system like NLS and is part of the CLAT (unlike NLS, which claimed it was the only NLU with a trimester system, which was the reason it would face a ‘year zero’ with the CLAT timetable).

12:25: Many techies registered for the exam for Rs 150 and were not remotely interested in sitting the exam, but just to demonstrate the security flaws.

12:27: He is now railing against how the re-test had happened last minute. In desperation a few of the children who registered complaints (while others had given up hopes and not complained), got an email around midnight on Sunday telling them of the re-take 12 hours later.

He now mentions the leak in the re-take, how someone got hold of the entire question paper after only 20 minutes, which had been shared with media agencies, Twitter and social media.

12:29: According to NLS counter-affidavit citing a faculty meeting presentation made by its registrar, nearly 60% of those who took the CLAT exam: “Considering the fact that NLSIU is the first preference for more than 60% of CLAT applicants, this would be a great injustice.”

Out of 69,000 CLAT UG candidates, only 23,000 took the undergraduate NLAT, he says (around 30%). And the 60% number does not even include 2nd or 3rd preferences for NLS, so we’re looking at a much smaller number that were interested in NLS than took the NLAT.

12:33: Sankaranarayanan is claiming that the so-called zero year argument by NLS was fallacious: it is the government and its agencies (but not the university) which are allowed to declare a zero year (automatically passing all candidates), he says.

12:36: Smoothly picking up on a technical buffering glitch, Sankaranarayanan explains how these are similar conditions to the exam. If his internet cut out during the NLAT, in the Supreme Court you could connect via a different device. In the NLAT, the entire 45 minutes exam would have been gone, for what I worked two and a half years.

12:38: In terms of locus standi of being able to appear before the Supreme Court, he was surprised by the respondent’s submission, he says, since one of the petitioners is a parent of a CLAT 2020 aspirants who was also sitting the NLAT, which was stated in the affidavit. Is this the best objection they can come up with? he asks.

The bench is looking to move on now, so Sankaranarayanan closes. He says that NEET, JEE, CLAT every other exam is happening this month. Why does NLS need another 12 days? This is a complete violation of articles 14 and 21, having rug pulled from under feet after 10 months having been told NLS was part of CLAT.

12:43: Arvind Datar is now up for NLSIU. He starts with examining academic and executive council roles at NLS, with bench and him talking about the hierarchy of the various bodies.

12:48: For background, read our primer on the AC and EC rules at NLS and why it matters.

12:50: It looks like there might be another hearing tomorrow... Datar says he’ll need at least another hour and a half.

Hearing now over.

17 September 2020: Day 2 liveblog now being updated here.

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