After NUALS-Kochi, which conducted CLAT-2018 on May 13, undertook to set up a grievance resolution committee to examine and offer redressal on a case-to-case basis on the representations of several candidates, 29 more aspiring law students have moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday, praying for a retest, reiterating the grounds of technical glitches and gross mismanagement. The vacation bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and M Shantanagoudar has agreed to hear the matter Tomorrow.
It may be noted that pursuant to the directions of the vacation bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Indu Malhotra, the committee is due to submit its status report before the court on Wednesday.
The committee was constituted after a suggestion of the apex court on an earlier petition by six students seeking the quashing of the examination held on May 13 by NUALS, Kochi, and its CLAT core committee and praying for a retest, besides a stay on the publication of the final result-cum-merit list till the disposal of the present petition.
The grievance of the petitioners and thousands of other candidates arises from the examination, being the single window mechanism for students aspiring for admission to prime national law universities in 17 states of India, having been vitiated due to widespread infrastructural issues allegedly solely on account of the gross negligence exhibited by the said respondents.
The petition filed through Advocates Zoheb Hossain and Rajendra Dangwal contended that because CLAT is a merit-based competitive examination, the position of the petitioners in the rank list would drastically vary even based on a score gap of one or two marks. In such an examination with a limited time frame of 120 minutes, loss of time due to technical issues may render the entire effort of the petitioners futile.
Further, since the respondents have failed to address the representations in this behalf, there has been a clear violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners under Articles 14 and 21. Besides, the widespread outcry of students across the nation calling for a re-examination has been the ignored. Till date, the CLAT-2018 core committee has not even uploaded a circular to explain the steps proposed to be taken in view of representations submitted by students across India.
The petition avers that the rotation practice conferring the right to conduct an examination to an inexperienced university such as the respondent university has lead to pulverizing the fate of the students.
The respondents, as a national law university established under an Act of the state legislature, being an instrumentality of the state, it is incumbent and a positive obligation of the respondents to ensure that the process of selection of the students is in strict conformity with the principles of transparency, fair play and accountability.
It has been claimed that the very semblance of “Equal Opportunity” protected under Article 16 is lost if the Common Entrance Examination of such a stature is marred with replete instances of gross negligence and mismanagement.
Reliance has been placed on the principles enunciated in the 2016 apex court judgment in Modern Dental College & Research Centre v. State of MP.
The innumerable hindrances the candidates were faced with include inter alia:
(a) Blank screens while attempting the questions, for almost 10 minutes after commencement of examination;
(b) Regular hanging/disruption of computer systems provided to the petitioners;
(c) Electricity cut and power failures at several centres across India;
(d) Problems in biometric verification of candidates;
(e) Test timers continuing to run inspite of the hanging of /crashing of computer systems;
(f) Absence of a uniform protocol to deal with the allotment of time, or extension of time in case of electric failure, or technical failure of the software, or any other alternative arrangement to make up for the valuable time lost;
(g) Non- adherence to the instructions contained in the Admission Card and non-observance of pre-testing of the computer systems to obviate any technical glitches during the conduct of the examination; and
(h) No specific seats were allotted to the petitioners and they were made to sit on random computer systems which were presumed to be working properly as per the respondents.
The high courts of Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Punjab & Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have also been approached on similar matters, but the Supreme Court had last Thursday stayed the proceedings before them, requiring the aforesaid committee to advance recommendations in respect of the same.