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SC asks NLUs for CLAT suggestions, asks ASG if NLUs have national importance • Basheer rejects BCI involvement [READ AFFIDAVITS]

Can SC help NLUs avoid another CLATaclysm?
Can SC help NLUs avoid another CLATaclysm?

The Supreme Court last Friday asked some national law universities to give their suggestions on a permanent body to conduct the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) and to look into the misuse of the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) quota in NLU admissions.

The court also asked the government whether NLUs could be considered Institutes of National Importance (INIs), with a view to keep them free from domicile reservations in admissions.

Justices SA Bobde and Nageswara Rao raised these issues while hearing advocates on record Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Liz Mathew for Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) founding trustee Shamnad Basheer, who had moved the Supreme Court in August 2015 for a permanent body to conduct the CLAT.

AOR Mathew told us: “Issuing notice to the NLUs for a permanent CLAT body, the Supreme Court has widened this to ask the additional solicitor general whether NLUs are Institutes of National Importance. [The judge said on his own] we should also consider whether NLUs have to have any regional reservations.”

“With respect to NRI quotas being misused [the bench said that] the NRI quota should only be what was said in [the case of PA Inamdar]. Right now it is only a recommendation letter from any NRI person which will get you a seat so its not a genuine [quota] if NRIs are coming under that,” she added.

Mathew said that the court was inclined to issue notice for the permanent body only to CLAT 2015 convenor RMLNLU Lucknow but on the petitioners urging the court to issue notice to convenors for the next three years as well, the court then also included RGNUL Patiala, CNLU Patna and Nuals Kochi.

The terrible CLATs

Basheer filed an affidavit, in addition to his original 2015 petition, to highlight the newest problems with the organisation of the CLAT, after the CLAT 2017 that had been conducted by CNLU Patna.

The 2015 CLAT perhaps ranks as a historical low point, but Basheer pointed out how the question paper for the exam was yet again full of errors, how there had been a non functioning helpline number set up by the convenor, opacity in seat allotment, illegalities in allotment of special category seats, improper award of the CLAT tender and finally a flood of writs again filed across the country to add to the long standing trend of several writs challenging each edition of the CLAT.

BCI CLAT 2019: Uh, hell no?

Also replying to the BCI’s affidavit to the court that had suggested that it should solely be responsible for conducting the CLAT, Basheer filed a rejoinder stating:

The requirement to consult with Universities cannot be bypassed through a legal education committee, no matter how eminent the respective members of the committee are. Further, the legal education committee comprises only of some academics representing 3-4 Universities at best, who can hardly substitute for a pan India consultation with “Universities” as required by the statute. It bears noting that a significant number of members of the legal education committee are not academicians or representatives of any University.

In any case, the Legal Education Committee [within the BCI] established under the [Advocates Act 1961] has not been entrusted with the power to regulate entry and admission into law universities in India. In such a case, the composition of the committee is not germane to deciding the matter at hand, i.e. finding a constitutionally and legally compliant way to institutionalize CLAT in order to make for an efficient, competent and transparent process for regulating entry and admission into the various NLUs.

In this rejoinder he also highlighted in detail the BCI’s blatantly dismal track record, full of “incompetence and unprofessionalism” in conducting the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), and stated:

Given the past conduct of the Bar Exam, it would be sheer injustice to entrust it with the conduct of CLAT, a far more challenging exam that requires the highest degree of competence and professionalism in terms of setting rigorous analytical questions on logical reasoning, maths, legal aptitude and the like.

He pointed out that the crucially time-sensitive CLAT cannot afford the kind of delays the BCI has been making with the AIBE, which we have reported on extensively over the years.

He noted that this track record suggested the BCI’s involvement would be “catastrophic” for the academic cycles at 18 NLUs.

Basheer argued in the rejoinder:

The Petitioner submits that the PIL was filed to redress a highly inequitable and unjust state of affairs, where students were subjected to a rotational CLAT conduct system by participating NLU’s, replete with arbitrariness and incompetence: a state of affairs that impacted their scores, admissions and very futures.

To now transfer the conduct of CLAT to an even more egregiously negligent, callous, unprofessional, opaque and corrupt body would be akin to forcing thousands of hapless students to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

Read additional affidavit (PDF)

Rejoinder to BCI (PDF)

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