Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is a centralised national level entrance test for admissions to twenty two National Law Universities (NLUs) in India and Bengaluru’s NLSIU was one of them.
The top court, which reserved its order for pronouncement on September 21 on a plea challenging the separate NLAT, was told by senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the NLSIU, Bengaluru, that the institution has been removed from the consortium of 22 NLUs and moreover the fact that it has the “trimester system” was not considered while fixing the date for CLAT by the consortium.
“Number of times, I had mentioned that we have a trimester system, do not postpone CLAT further. This was a knee-jerk reaction,” the senior lawyer told the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The bench, which also comprised justices R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah, heard the arguments through video conferencing on the plea filed by former NLSIU vice chancellor Professor R Venkata Rao and a parent of an aspirant.
During the hearing, Datar said that the NLSIU cannot be asked to accept students on the basis of CLAT score as it has been removed from the consortium of NLUs.
The bench intervened and said that NLSIU has been removed from the office and “not from the consortium”.
Datar said that on Wednesday, the governing council of the NLU consortium had asked the Bengaluru institution to “transfer funds to NALSAR, Hyderabad, which was made the new Secretariat of the consortium”.
The apex court had on September 11 given its go ahead to NLSIU, Bengaluru to hold its separate exam, which was to be held on September 12, but restrained it from announcing the results and admitting any student till the pendency of the plea.
The bench had said that it is an important matter which needs to be decided.
It had issued notice to the university and its vice chancellor Professor Sudhir Krishnaswamy and sought their response on the plea.
The plea has termed holding of separate examination as “manifestly arbitrary and illegal decision”.
The NLSIU action has created an unprecedented uncertainty and has imposed an onerous burden and obligations upon thousands of aspirants, who are now uncertain about the future course of action, the plea has claimed.
It has said such a unilateral decision to hold National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) as entrance exam to the university was taken without any application of mind, “thereby completely prejudicing the students at the final hour and has put their career at jeopardy for purely whimsical reasons”.
The plea has claimed it is apparent that the decision is solely directed at creating an “elitist institution” which caters to those who are able to afford to take the test, while “completely ignoring the aspirations of poor, marginalized, and less privileged candidates”.
It has sought quashing of notification for admission to the five-year integrated BA, LLB (Hons.) programme, 2020-21 read with the press release on NLSIU Admissions 2020-21 dated September 4, 2020.
“Through the impugned notification, the Respondent No. 1 University is in direct violation of the fundamental rights of the students who are desirous of gaining admission into the Respondent University, especially during the current and ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic,” it said.
It further said that an executive council of NLSIU at its 91st meeting unanimously authorized the university to develop an alternative admissions process in the event that CLAT 2020 was further postponed due to the pandemic.
“However, it is respectfully submitted that the Executive Council of the Respondent No. 1 University did not have any such powers vested in it and therefore meeting of the Executive Council for this very purpose was illegal and without any basis under its own bylaws,” the plea has said.
The impugned notification provides that the NLSIU shall not accept the scores of CLAT 2020 for admission to academic year 2020-21 and an examination called NLAT be conducted online.
“The sudden and capricious decision of the NLSIU has not only thrown the aspirants of CLAT 2020 into frenzy and in a state of fear and confusion, it has also severely jeopardized the position of the university in the Consortium. Due to the whimsical conduct of the University, the children are put to extreme pressure and mental stress,” the plea has said. MNL SJK ABA RKS RKS