HC permits DU to admit students for 5-yr law course through CLAT for current academic year

The Delhi High Court Monday permitted the Delhi University to offer admissions in its newly introduced five-year integrated law course on the basis of the score of CLAT-UG, held last year, only for the current academic year 2023-24.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula passed the interim order while observing that classes have started in all other universities for the current academic session.

The high court was hearing a petition against Delhi University’s (DU) decision to admit students to the five-year integrated law course solely on the basis of Common Law Admission Test Under graduate (UG) 2023 and not Common University Entrance Test (CUET).

The court observed that the matter involves a broader issue whether CUET should be mandatory for admissions in all central universities or if such varsities should have the liberty to make decisions in the matter of admission.

“The matter requires consideration. However, for the present academic year, as in all universities the classes have started, the Delhi University is permitted to admit students for the five year law courses based upon CLAT-UG which is a common law entrance test,” the bench said.

The bench appointed senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter and listed the petition for further hearing on November 23.

During the hearing, the bench perused the affidavit filed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman pursuant to the court’s earlier directions.

The affidavit stated that CUET is not mandatory for professional specialised courses like law, engineering and medicine and that the universities offering such courses can adopt different admission criteria including conducting entrance tests like CLAT and NEET.

UGC said it has resolved that CUET will be mandatory for admissions in all general degree programmes in central universities.

The bench had earlier asked the UGC Chairman to file an affidavit clarifying whether CUET is mandatory for admission to 5-year law degree courses in central universities, after its two top officials spoke in different voices on the issue.

The court had noted that on one hand a March letter issued by the UGC Joint Secretary said CUET was mandatory for admissions in all undergraduate programmes in all central universities, an affidavit filed by the UGC under secretary in response to the petition maintained DU can admit students in the 5-year law course through CLAT.

In its earlier affidavit, the UGC, the apex body tasked with funding and maintenance of standards of institutions of higher education, had told the court that 5-year law course is a professional degree programme which may require different yardsticks to select students for admission.

It said the DU, with the approval of its Academic Council and Executive Council, has resolved to admit students to its integrated law course through CLAT, a centralised national-level entrance test primarily adopted by the premier National Law Universities (NLUs).

Similarly, the Central government has said in its reply that admission standards for professional courses like engineering, medicine, law etc are shaped by their specialised nature and specific skill and so are needed to be guided by the distinct prerequisites of each course.

The court had earlier asked the central government and the UGC to file their detailed replies on the petition by law student Prince Singh after the Centre’s counsel said CUET was not mandatory for central universities but the UGC’s lawyer took a contrary stand.

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Petitioner Prince Singh, a law student at Campus Law Centre in DU, argued in his petition that the university, while issuing the impugned notification, imposed a “wholly unreasonable and arbitrary condition” that the admission to five-year integrated law courses shall be solely based upon merit in the CLAT-UG 2023 result, which is violative of the right to equality under Article 14 and right to education under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The plea said the condition lacks any intelligible differentia and has no rational nexus with the object of admission to the five-year integrated law courses at the Faculty of Law.

The petition has sought admissions to the five-year integrated law courses through CUET- UG 2023.

It said CUET-UG 2023 was introduced by the Union Ministry of Education (MoE) for admission to all undergraduate programmes in central universities for academic session 2023-24.

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