Is CUET mandatory for admission in 5-yr law courses in central universities? Delhi HC asks UGC

The Delhi High Court has asked the the UGC 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 order by a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma came on a petition against Delhi University (DU)’s decision to admit students to the course solely on the basis of CLAT-UG 2023 and not CUET.

The court, in the order released on Wednesday, noted that on one hand, a March letter issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) Joint Secretary “categorically resolved” that the 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 has said DU can admit students in the 5-year law course through CLAT.

“Let the Chairman of the UGC file an affidavit categorically stating whether CUET is mandatory for Under-Graduate Five Year Law Degree Course for all Central Universities in the matter of grant of admission or not. The same be done positively within three days,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula, in the order dated September 12.

The court also directed DU to state whether admissions to the integrated law course shall be made on the basis of CLAT this year only or whether the same pattern will be followed in subsequent years.

“Even though, the current approval is for one year only, the university shall make its stand very clear on the mode of examination i.e. CUET or CLAT for admission in the Five-Year Law Degree Course for the next Academic Year in case such an approval is granted,” the court said.

Listing the matter for hearing on September 18, the court requested Additional Solicitor General of India Chetan Sharma to assist in the matter.

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

It has said DU, with the approval of its Academic Council and Executive Council, has resolved to admit students to its integrated law course through Common Law Admission Test (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.

Last month, a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula had asked the Centre 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.

“It may be pertinent to mention here that Five-Year Integrated Law programme is a professional degree programme, and different yardsticks in terms of assessment/evaluation may be required to select students for admission in this professional degree programme. In view of the aforesaid facts and circumstances, it is most humbly prayed that this instant Petition may be dismissed by this Hon’ble Court,” the affidavit filed by UGC said.

Petitioner Prince Singh, a law student at Campus Law Centre in DU, has argued in his petition that the university, while issuing the impugned notification, has 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.

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The plea has 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 that admissions to the five-year integrated law courses be done through the CUET- UG, 2023.

It has 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.

Earlier this month, the high court had questioned DU’s decision to admit students to five-year integrated law courses solely on the basis of CLAT-UG, 2023.

The high court had said when other central universities were allowing admission for the course on the basis of CUET UG 2023 introduced by the Ministry of Education, Delhi University was “not special”.

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