SC Scraps NLAT, Directs Admission Through CLAT Results.

Today’s Latest Judgment is of the Supreme Court passed in a petition filed against National Law School of India University, Bangalore for conducting National Law Aptitude Test. The Judgment has been delivered by the bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R Shah.

Background of the case Rakesh Kumar Agarwalla and Ors. vs National Law School of India University, Bangalore & Ors. (Writ Petition Civil 1030 of 2020)

There were two petitioners in this case. The first petitioner was the father of a law aspirant, and the other was former vice-chancellor of National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.

The petitioners requested the Court to direct the respondent no.1, NLSIU, Bangalore, to not to conduct a separate exam for the admissions to their five year BA.LLB course. The petitioners stated that all the National Law Universities in the country take admissions solely based on the scores achieved in the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT).

In their petition, they stated that if NLSIU conducts a separate exam, then thousands of students who have been preparing for the CLAT exam for many years will face undue hardships as the format of the exam is different from that of CLAT exam. 

Arguments raised by the Petitioners:-

  1. The Counsel for the petitioner argued that the notification issued by NLSIU notify the exam NLAT was in breach of National Law School of India Act, 1986. He stated that only the Academic Council of NLSIU had the power to make decisions in regards to the admission of students.
  2. He further argues that NLSIU was a member of a consortium that was tasked with conducting the CLAT and if they conduct a different exam, then it will violate the rules of the consortium.
  3. It was also mentioned that the CLAT exam was scheduled to take place on 28.09.2020 so there was no need to conduct a separate exam on 12.09.2020.
  4. Counsel for the petitioner told the Court that NLSIU could not ensure full transparency and fairness when conducting the NLAT.
  5. Petitioners also apprised the Court of the fact that the format of the NLAT was quite different from that of CLAT.
  6. It was also mentioned that terse notice was provided to the student to prepare for the exam and that it was unfair to the students who were preparing rigorously for the past couple of years.

Contentions of the Respondents

  1. The Counsel for the NLSIU stated that the petitioners had no locus to file the case. It was alleged that petitioner no.1 had not submitted any proof that his child was preparing for CLAT 2020. The Counsel also stated that that the petitioner no.2 was working in a private law university and who was in no way affected by the NLAT exam.
  2. It was also stated before the Court that NLSIU has a trimester system where each semester is of 70 days. If the admissions process is not over by October, then it may lead to a zero year, and the students would have wasted a year.
  3. He argued that as the CLAT exam was not held on time, the Vice-Chancellor was well within his rights to conduct NLAT.
  4. The Counsel stated that the exam was held 12.09.2020 and because of technical glitches again on 14.09.2020 and there were no malpractices during the exam and it was conducted transparently.

Questions before the Court:-

Five main questions were put before the Court:-

  1. Do the petitioners have a locus to file a case?
  2. Was a recommendation from the Academic Council necessary to conduct NLAT?
  3. If NLSIU was bound by the Bye-Laws other NLUs when it comes to admission of students?
  4. Was the notification dated 03.09.2020 that notified the home-based NLAT violated rights of students?
  5. If there were any malpractices in the exams conducted on 12.09.2020 and 14.09.2020?

The reasoning of the Court:-

The Court held that even though the petitioner no.1 has not put any material on record to prove that he was affected by NLAT exam, the petition was maintainable because petitioner no.2 was the vice-chancellor of NLSIU at one point of time and has been closely associated with the development of legal studies in the country and the CLAT exam as well. 

The Court opined that NLSIU was required by statute to take the recommendation of the Academic Council before conducting or notifying the NLAT exam. As per the Court, the notification of the exam was not issued as per the rules laid down in the National Law School of India Act, 1986

The Court rejected the plea of the respondent that the “Doctrine of Necessity” was applicable in this case as the Clat exam was delayed and if the NLAT were not conducted, then the students would have lost a year. The Court stated that the academic year could have been altered to accommodate the trimester format of NLSIU. As a member of the consortium, they should not have gone forward with a separate exam.

The Court opined that if a home-based examination was conducted for NLAT 2020.2021 then students. They don’t have the technological infrastructure to sit for the exam, which will be a violation of their rights as per Article 14.

The Decision of the Court

After going through all the arguments raised by both the respondents and petitioners the Court passed the following judgement:-

The Court quashed the notification issued by NLSIU. The University was also directed to admit candidates based on their CLAT score. The directed the consortium of Universities which conduct the CLAT exam to complete the process of examination as early as possible so that the studies of students are not hampered. The Court also directed the respondents that the CLAT examination that is supposed to be held on 28.09.2020 should be conducted after taking all the precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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