A Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah authorised National Law School of India University (NLSIU) Bangalore to conduct the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT 2020), a separate examination in the light of the delay in conducting the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT 2020) this year. It was also held that the results of the exam and admission process will be subject to the Court’s final decision in the matter.
The petition was filed by one of the aspirant’s parent alongside former NLSIU Vice-Chancellor, Prof. (Dr.) R. Venkata Rao. Justice Bhushan, during the proceedings, remarked that the main question is – can NLSIU hold a separate entrance? The question of the mode of conducting the examination is secondary. Senior Advocate Nidhesh Gupta contended on behalf of the petitioners that NLSIU is violating the by-laws of the Consortium of National Law Universities by conducting a separate entrance exam. While mentioning to the court that NLSIU was part of the NLU Consortium, Gupta said,
“By-laws have a provision regarding how a common exam will govern admissions to PG and UG law courses across all the NLUs.”
It was also added that only one-third of students who registered for CLAT also signed up for NLAT. Gupta further stated that NLSIU was party to the decision of the Consortium to postpone CLAT due to the ongoing situations in West Bengal & Bihar.
Here, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for NLSIU, was asked to file a counter-affidavit by Justice Ashok Bhushan. Datar responded to the Court that since the examination was scheduled to be held tomorrow, he requested the Court to allow him to make submissions so that the exam could be successfully conducted. He also assured the Court that NLAT was only for this year and that next year, NLSIU would go back to CLAT. The reasoning of NLSIU to conduct a separate exam was also explained by Datar. He said,
“If admissions were not completed by September, then the institute (NLSIU) would have lost Rs 16 crore by not admitting the 120 UG students and other PG students. CLAT was postponed thrice. The postponement was not ruled out in the emergency executive council meeting.”
After hearing all the arguments, Justice Bhushan said, “You have already decided to hold the exams. Students are ready. Hold the exam, but no results can be announced till the pendency of the proceedings” and Justice Shah clarified, “NLAT result will be subjected to the court proceedings.” The Bench directed the respondents to file a counter to the plea within 3 days and listed the matter for September 16.
The petition filed on behalf of Prof Rao and an aggrieved parent requests the Top Court to put a stop to the September 3 notification announcing the conduct of NLAT for NLSIU admissions this year. It claims that the decision of the NLSIU to conduct a separate test would convert NLSIU from being ‘an island of excellence’ to ‘an island of exclusion’. It was unilateral and taken in haste. The petitioners stipulated that the NLSIU did not have any powers to develop an alternative admissions process. The notification of September 3 also declared that NLSIU would not accept CLAT scores for admissions to its law programs this year.
Another concern raised in the petition was that the technical requirements prescribed for the students to write the exam pose an undue burden on aspiring students. The examination is to be conducted online would be done through artificial intelligence-based and human proctoring. This requires constant streaming of audio and video data throughout the duration of the examination. The burden and unreasonable obligation will be on aspiring students since they would have to arrange for their own laptops, and in complete variance with the mode of the CLAT 2020 examination.
NLAT 2020 is to be held tomorrow, September 12, in the online mode, according to the September 3 notification issued by NLSIU and was affirmed by the Supreme Court today.