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UPDATE: NLUs urge to let bygones be • NLS: Will join CLAT 2020, to refund 50% of Rs 150 NLAT fees (leaving Rs 20+ L to cover expenses)

NLS press release: Refunds to all less processing charges
NLS press release: Refunds to all less processing charges

NLSIU Bangalore has reacted to today’s Supreme Court decision striking down the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT), noting that it would re-join the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) as well as issue partial refunds, implementing the judgment “in letter and spirit”.

NLS, after “consultation with its Governing Bodies”, would “take all necessary steps to welcome a new batch of students to experience NLSIU’s unique and transformative educational experience”.

Faculty had also resolved earlier today that NLS “will do everything possible to respect its founding commitment to a Trimester based Academic Calendar and maintain the highest academic rigour and standards”.

“These intense teaching and learning practices make NLSIU India’s best Law School,” added the release (capitalisation not ours).

Partial fee refunds (and what's left)

According to the release (see above), NLS said it would also partially refund fees:

We have begun working with our Vendors to initiate refunds to all students.

Students may expect refunds, after a deduction of INR 75 as application processing charges, to reach them in the next 9-14 working days.

The NLAT application fees were only Rs 150 (or Rs 125 for candidates from certain reserved categories), only around 4% of the CLAT’s Rs 4,000.

However, that means that refunds would only work out to between 40 to 50% for NLAT candidates.

A total of 24,603 had registered for the undergraduate NLAT and 2,935 for the postgraduate exam.

At a total of 27,538 candidates, providing each of them claim their refunds, that would leave NLS with around Rs 20.7 lakh.

That might just be enough to cover expenses such as paying its vendor, which we had revealed to be a subsidiary of the global HR consultancy Aon and was unlikely to have come cheap.

Officially, neither Aon nor NLS have confirmed the name of the vendor to date, not even in the Supreme Court.

However, NLS senior counsel Arvind Datar had revealed in court that NLS had also instructed one of the “biggest audit firms in India” to conduct a forensic audit of its exam data trail, to ferret out any cheating or other malpractice.

We are not certain what the current status of that instruction is (indeed, whether it is continuing) and what the terms were under which fees to it would have been payable.

Consortium press release

Update 22:22: The NLU consortium has also released a statement:

Our faith in the judicial system has increased and we are grateful to all the lawyers who supported our stand. The Supreme Court judgment has come as a big relief to the thousands of students who were unnecessarily put of a lot of stress. We are glad that all our arguments have been accepted by the Supreme Court and our consortium has been judicially recognised as the appropriate body to conduct admission test for the member national law universities including NLSIU. We have been arguing that CLAT as a test was conceived due to the Supreme Court’s intervention in 2006-2007. NLSIU has been denying it by asserting that there was no judicial order. Today our stand got vindicated as Supreme Court had included this point in its judgment. The Court has also mentioned the litigation of 2018 and subsequent meetings at MHRD, Government of India along with BCI and Vice-Chancellors of National Law Universities leading to the registration of the Consortium in 2019 at Bangalore.

Now Supreme Court has discussed Consortium Bye-laws at length and has said relying on its earlier judgments that conducting admission test for several universities is in national interest and a student friendly initiative. The court has rejected the argument of consortium being a private body and acknowledged that it consists of statutory universities which had come together in larger public interest to improve legal education and conduct CLAT. NLSIU now has to admit students only through CLAT as NLAT has been quashed. This means NLSIU’s Executive Council’s decisions of August 12 and 18 were set aside as the same were found to be violative of both NLSIU Act, 1986 as well as Consortium by-laws. Similarly NLSIU’s justification of Zero year has been rejected and the court has accepted our argument that there are several ways in which academic calendar can be suitably modified.

As officiating Secretary of Consortium, I had even written to Prof Sudhir with the concurrence of our President Prof V. Vijayakumar on 11th September requesting him to cancel his test and come back to CLAT but unfortunately till date he has not even responded to our email. We are fully prepared to conduct CLAT on 28th September and of course NLSIU is an integral part of us and will cooperate with us in the smooth conduct of CLAT. Prof Sudhir was never removed from his post of Secretary- Treasurer but was merely asked not to discharge his duties temporarily due to the conflict of interests between CLAT to be conducted by Consortium and NLAT conducted by the NLSIU.

The Consortium office has not yet been transferred to NALSAR, Hyderabad. We are hopeful that bygone will treated as bygone and NLSIU will continue to play meaningful role in strengthening the Consortium. NLSIU being the oldest National Law University has the special responsibility of mentoring and helping other NLUs though in terms of legal status all National Law Universities have an equal status.

Faizan Mustafa

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