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Delhi HC catches CLAT 2012 mistake, but too late to effect lost Nalsar preference

Pencil sharpened at the ready, set and go.
Pencil sharpened at the ready, set and go.

A Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2012 examinee lost out on a Nalsar Hyderabad seat due to a mistake in last year’s question paper, the Delhi high court has held.

NUJS Kolkata second-year student and writ petitioner Archit Krishna had attempted the 2012 CLAT and scored 141 marks, entitling him to his fourth preference – a seat at NUJS Kolkata – instead of a seat in NLSIU Bangalore or Nalsar, which would have been possible for him with scores of 145 and 142 points respectively.

However, Krishna had alleged in his writ WP(C) No 4147/2012 that four answers in last year’s answer key were marked wrongly entitling him to 145 marks, or at least 142 marks. He had sought a transfer to Nalsar or NLSIU from the Delhi high court.

The court found that the answer to one of the questions was indeed incorrect and Krishna’s correct score should have been 142, however, since the judgment was delivered in July 2013 – a year after Nalsar’s and NUJS’ 2012 batch – the court did not grant Krishna the relief of a transfer.

Instead the Delhi HC merely directed CLAT 2012 convener NLU Jodhpur to “declare the revised results of the petitioner within four weeks, treating option ‘C’ as the correct answer of Question No. 75”.

Question # 193

X went to Y’s house and forgot his bag which contained 1 kg sweets. Y’s children consumed the sweets. Decide the liability of Y.
(A) Y is bound to pay the price of sweets to X
(B) Y is not bound to pay anything
(C) Y is bound to pay half the price of sweets.
(D)Y would not have to pay anything because X loves Y’s children.

NUJS professor Shamnad Basheer, who is the founder of the Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) initiative, had petitioned the CLAT committee in August 2010 for dispensing with questions requiring prior knowledge of law in the paper pattern. He wrote in an email: “What I find most problematic is that the judge discusses an impugned question, the answer to which turns significantly on one’s prior knowledge of law.”

“As is obvious, ‘aptitude’ for the study of law is very different than ‘prior knowledge of the law’. A terrific knowledge of the law (gained through cramming tons of legal treatises) may be testament to one’s memory prowess, but not necessarily the ability to reason and think critically. Further, such testing of prior knowledge significantly disadvantages many students whose prior exposure to the law may be limited (by virtue of their lack of familiarity/nexus with the legal community or their failure to sign up to one of the many expensive CLAT coaching centres). In any case, why do we want to test them for prior knowledge of law, when they will anyway acquire it during the course of law school?” he added.

Institutionalising CLAT

Three CLAT 2012 candidates Ujjwal Madan, Shubham Sinha, and Osho Donnie Ashok had petitioned the Delhi high court in May 2012 seeking a permanent body to hold the CLAT every year. After the May writ was dismissed they had filed a letters patent appeal through advocates Gopal Sankaranarayan and Aditi Bhat.

Basheer commented: “Leaving it to whims of law schools each year that have to learn the CLAT game from scratch [is] a terribly inefficient way to run things and more problematically, a process that plays around with the futures of countless candidates. And this case is testament to this... that a deserving student did not get the law school he rightly deserved owing to a systemic issue with CLAT and the fact that the window between declaration of results and admissions are really tight, leaving most courts hesitant to grant any sort of effective relief.”

CLAT 2012 convener NLU Jodhpur faced writs for examining candidates on out-of-syllabus questions, while CLAT 2013 convener HNLU Raipur aggrieved candidates with mistakenly withheld results, exclusions of reserved categories, and software errors mixing up preferences. Revised law school admission lists were published to undo the errors.

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