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High court scraps CLAT age limit (again) after 2 intrepid NLSIU interns file writ [READ ORDER & PETITION]

CLAT: Old school
CLAT: Old school

The Rajasthan high court yesterday passed an interim order scrapping the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) age limit. It asked CLAT 2015 convenor RMLNLU Lucknow to modify its application software so as not to reject applications of candidates above the current age limit and to upload the high court’s interim order on CLAT’s official website.

Advising the CLAT core committee to “avoid” defending its decision to allow only general candidates who are less than 20 years old (or 22 years old in the case of scheduled category candidates), to appear in the entrance test, Rajasthan high court chief justice Sunil Ambwani and justice Prakash Gupta ruled:

“We are of the view that it is a fit case, in which we should grant interim order, directing the Organizing University namely, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, c-Core Committee of Common Law Admission Test, Lucknow, not to reject the applications of the students/applicants to the Common Law Admission Test, 2015, on the ground that they have crossed the age of 20 years, in case of general category candidates, and 22 years in case of SC/ST and persons with disabilities. Their applications will not be rejected, and that the software for applying online, will be suitably modified, not to block the acceptance of the applications of such students.”

NLSIU Bangalore first year students Kshitij Sharma and Abhishek Rao, who were interning in the Rajasthan high court during their vacation from college, had filed a petition in the high court asking it to permanently scrap the age limit.

Sharma said that during their internship they had noticed that several CLAT candidates were petitioning to the court individually for their CLAT applications not to be rejected despite having crossed the age limits. Each of the individual candidates successfully obtained the relief.

He said: “I was just sitting in the court one day and a matter of CLAT was going on in that court. Someone had personally filed a petition that his application should be accepted. So anyone who was filing a personal petition, the court was allowing them. So then I thought that people who do not know that their rights are getting infringed [are disadvantaged]. So we filed this PIL.”

Sharma and Rao, who were appearing in person, had argued that the founding statutes of none of the 16 national law universities which admit students through the CLAT state an upper age limit for appearing in the entrance test.

The court stated in the order:

“Prima facie, we are of the view that considering the withdrawal of Clause 28 of Schedule-III appended to Rule 11 of the Rules of the Bar Council of India Legal Education Rules, 2008, not only on the ground that the Bar Council was not competent, but also the Bar Council felt that the Rule is ultra vires the provisions of Section 7(1)H and (i), 24(1)(c)(iii), and (iiia) or 49(1)(af), (ag), and (d) of the Advocates Act, 1961, and also arbitrary, as it introduces invidious classification by dividing the class of students artificially creating a class by prescribing the maximum age limit for admission in Law Courses, and further on the ground that there is no apparent object to be served in prescribing the age of 20 years. Considering the fact that a large population of the country lives in rural areas, which also forms talent bank, from where the students can be drawn for admission, to the top Law Colleges in the country[…]”

Advocate General of Rajasthan RN Mathur was appearing for CLAT 2015 convenor RMLNLU Lucknow and asked the court for time until 12 March to file a reply and to fix a date before CLAT application deadline 31 March to dispose of the matter.

The court said:

“We are of the view that in this case, the Organizing Universities must collectively consider and take an informed decision, in advising the Organizing University in respect of the maximum age to avoid the Organizing University to defend the matter, in the writ petitions in the High Courts across the country. The Organizing Universities may sit together, review their decision in the light of the observations made by us in this interim order. As and when such decision is taken, the Organizing University is given a liberty to approach the Court for fixing a date for hearing.”

The Allahabad high court had directed CLAT 2014 convenor GNLU Gandhinagar last year not to reject the CLAT applications of two 21-year-old candidates on the ground that they had crossed the age limit fixed by the core committee.

But CLAT 2015 convenor RMLNLU’s vice chancellor Prof Gurdip Singh had in November told LegallyIndia that the core committee had resolved to keep the age limit rule unchanged.

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