The Supreme Court vacation bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar refused to stay the publication of the results of CLAT-2018, due to be declared on Thursday, requiring the Grievance Redressal Committee established by NUALS, Kochi to submit its report before the court by June 6.
The Bench also made it clear that the CLAT examination cannot be cancelled.
On Wednesday, Senior Counsel V. Giri, appearing on behalf of NUALS, produced the report of the Committee, headed by former Kerala High Court judge Justice Hariharan Nair, pertaining to 162 Representations by candidates aggrieved of the Technical glitches and gross mismanagement that came to characterize CLAT-2018.
Praying that the Committee may only be required to address the 251 complaints originally received, Mr. Giri advanced, “May 13 was the date of the exam...on May 15, the answer key was published and the candidates became aware of the marks they shall receive...on May 16, it was notified that any grievances may be submitted on the official website...very few representations were made then...subsequently, several High Courts were moved and the apex court was approached...the Committee must only look into the 251 complaints, otherwise the matter will never get over...”
“For 162 candidates, including the petitioners before the various High Courts as well as this court, the report is before Your Lordships...if the results are declared tomorrow as per schedule, several candidates may not pursue the complaints if they have received good marks...(This submission was met by vehement oppositions from the petitioners’ side)...in 99.9% of the cases where 10 or 15 minutes were lost on account of technical snags, additional time was allotted...(‘No, no, no’, echoed the counsel for the petitioners)...in some cases, the additional time allotted was not availed of...the audit report for each student is available, showing the time of log-in, the time for proceeding from one step to the next and so on...sometimes, a student has read through all 200 questions before returning to question 1...”
“...we cannot simply grant 10 marks to each student who lost 10 minutes...there has to be a formula...once the result is declared, out of the thousands of complaints received, should the anomalies alleged by candidates who are not even within a striking distance of the cut-off be looked into? We have to take care of all students...Your Lordships have to balance the equities...”, he continued.
Mr. Giri on Wednesday hinted that the copies of the answer sheets of the candidates may also be made available for their benefit.
Insisting that the declaration of the results not be stayed, he urged, “19 colleges and as many as 54,000 students are involved...after these 162 complaints, the Committee can address others received until May 23...if all representations made up till May 29, as was the order of this court, are to be examined, it would take 2-3 weeks...even the Committee, which is headed by a former High Court judge, is of the view that the matter cannot be delayed...please let the results be announced...the committee can continue looking into the complaints...in the worst-come-worst scenario, even if the Committee finds that candidates were deprived of time [unclear]...”
During the hearing on Wednesday, the bench contemplated the exclusion of complaints that are not genuine, “Why do thousands of representations have to be looked into? There has been an instance where 1,048 complaints have been received in the name of the same candidates...such repeat mails may not be entertained”
When the bench noted that the report of the Committee contained only observations and no recommendations, Mr. Giri asserted that the Committee was intended only as a fact-finding body.
When the bench deliberated on Mr. Giri’s suggestion for the declaration of the result, while the Committee simultaneously examines the representations, followed by the devising of a formula to compensate candidates found to have been deprived of an equal opportunity, Senior Counsel Salman Khurshid, representing some of the petitioners, contended, “there are allegations of cheating in atleast 2 centres in the petitions before the Bombay High Court...in an instance, the exam went on till 9 ‘o’ clock...somewhere, the mouse was not working...there was repeated logging out...the concentration that is needed for an objective examination could not be achieved...the Committee should determine if this was the General trend and come back with a report before the results are declared, even if it takes 3 or 4 or 5 days...”
Advocate Zoheb Hossain, appearing in a fresh writ petition on behalf of 29 aspiring law students, advanced, “In Tanvi Sarwal [Tanvi Sarwal v. CBSE (2015); wherein the Supreme Court had cancelled the All India Pre Medical Test-2015 and directed a reexamination], Your Lordships have held that even if one undeserving candidate gets on the meritorious list, it vitiates the whole examination process...”, adding, “Rightfully, there should have been CCTV cameras at all examination centres, but at several places they were wrapped in wires...”
Another counsel for the petitioners argued, “If I knew beforehand that 15 minutes extra time would be allotted, my approach towards the paper would have been different”. “How could the invigilators have envisaged that additional time would be needed?”, inquired the bench rhetorically.
“M/S Sify Technologies Ltd., the body with the assistance of which CLAT-2018 was conducted, is a commercial body...the centres were like call centres where there is no adequate information...in Hissar in Haryana, cameras were allowed into the examination halls and there are videos...the demo, which was supposed to commence at 2:30, started at 3...then for another 20 minutes, the students were unable to attempt questions...time was wasted because random shapes were appearing on the screen...The invigilators were not technologically-equipped and asked the candidates to restart their computers...”, intervened a counsel, with another advocate adding, “In Mumbai, there were cases where only options without the questions appeared on the screen...the audit reports would not reveal this...”