In its counter-affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in response to Prof. Shamnad Basheer’s petition for a permanent CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) body, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has offered to conduct Common Law Entrance Test.
The BCI counter-affidavit stated: “That the answering respondent proposes Bar Council of India may be permitted to constitute the body of experts through its Legal Education Committee, to hold CLAT wherein the Legal Education Committee Council could involve some sitting and former Hon’ble Judges, noted educationists of legal education and eminent jurists and such irregularities as complained of by the petitioner herein may be effectively redressed.”
Laying special emphasis on its power to regulate legal education in the country as per the Advocates Act, 1961, the BCI has submitted that admissions to National Law Universities (NLUs) are being made on the basis of an admission test conducted by a non-statutory body, even though “a statutory body regulating the legal education in the country is duly constituted and is capable enough to conduct such admission tests”.
It claims to have a mechanism in place to conduct the entrance test for law courses for all institutions imparting legal education in the country through a common entrance test. It suggests that the admission would take place on the basis of merit and counseling of the students. The basis and gradation of standard of law colleges is recommended to be the accreditation granted by NAAC for the time being. The regulator, however, averred that from 2017, it has decided to undertake the process of accreditation of all Law colleges through teams headed by former chief justices of different high courts.
The court had issued notices to the Centre, BCI and Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law Patiala in September last year, on a PIL seeking immediate intervention of the court against the opaque and inefficient implementation of CLAT that is held every year for the purpose of admissions to graduate and post-graduate programs in the discipline of law offered at premier NLUs in India. The BCI had, however, failed to respond, and was levied with cost of ₹25,000 in August for the same.
Contending that almost all CLAT exams have been characterised by egregious lapses, Prof. Basheer sought the setting up of a “robust, structured and institutionalised mechanism for conducting CLAT to avoid uncertainties and reduce the scope for errors and lapses”.
The petition argues that despite the growing popularity of CLAT, “its planning and execution over the years has been marred with serious institutional lapses and inefficiencies, such as arbitrary and sub-standard question papers, incorrect questions and answers, questions that have no reasonable nexus to ones aptitude for the study of law, wrongful allotments of seats, unnecessary delays and an opaque administration that fails to comply with basic standards of transparency and the norms underlying the RTI Act.”
Prof. Basheer has also alleged that “the papersetters have also been accused of extensive plagiarism”. He quoted an article from leading IP Law blog SpicyIP, to the effect that due to such extensive plagiarism, CLAT papersetters may even be guilty of copyright infringement.
Apart from the issue of seriously defective question papers/answers keys, Prof. Basheer further argues that CLAT exams suffer from “severe discrepancies in terms of allocation of seats, release of merit lists, mal-administration and inefficient management and serious policy inconsistencies”.
The CLAT was instituted pursuant to the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2007 by vice-chancellors of the first seven NLUs to be established, i.e., NLSIU, NALSAR, NLIU, WBNUJS, NLUJ, HNLU and GNLU, which in turn was pursuant to the orders of the Supreme Court in Varun Bhagat v Union of India and Others, W.P. No. 68 of 2006, decided on 23.11.2007.
The CLAT was envisaged as a single entrance examination for all participating NLUs and students were to be admitted based on scores obtained in this test. The test was agreed to be held each year by different NLUs (in rotation), based on their year of institution. Further, the overall supervision and policy-making of CLAT was to lie with the ‘core committee’ (‘CLAT-CC’), comprising vice-chancellors of all participating NLUs.
On 01.11.2014, 16 NLUs entered into a fresh memorandum of understanding (‘2014 MoU’) in supersession of the previous 2007 MoU. Apart from the original seven parties to the 2007 MoU, this new MoU was signed by RMLNLU, RGNUL, CNLU, NUALS, NLUO, NUSRL, NLUJAA, DSNLU and TNNLS.
Read the Counter Affidavit here.