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Are National Law Schools Institutes Of National Importance? SC Asks ASG While Hearing Prof Shamnad Basheer’s Petition

The Supreme Court, on Friday, asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to address the Court on the question whether National Law Schools can be considered and declared as institutes of national importance under Entry 63 of the Union List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.

The question was posed by a Bench comprising Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice Nageswara Rao, while examining the question whether National Law Schools can prescribe regional reservations, on a Petition filed by Professor Shamnad Basheer.

During the hearing on Friday, the Mr. Gopal Sankarnarayanan and Ms. Liz Mathew, appearing for the Petitioners, informed the Court that notice on the Petition had only been issued to the Centre, Chairman of the Bar Council of India Mr. Manan Kumar Mishra, and Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala (RGNUL), which was in-charge of conducting CLAT in 2016.

The Court’s attention was then drawn to the fact that responses from the other NLUs should also be received as different National Schools Conduct Common Law Admission Test each year. Agreeing with the submission, the Court thereafter issued a notice to all NLUs. The matter has now been listed after two weeks.

The Petition, filed in 2015, demands institutionalization of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), by establishing a permanent body for conducting the examination. To this end, it seeks intervention of the Court against the opaque and inefficient implementation of CLAT, which is held every year for admissions to Graduate and Post-Graduate programs in the discipline of law offered at the National Law Universities.

Besides highlighting several lapses in organization of the exam, the petition has also alleged violation of the judgment in the case ofP.A. Inamdar & Ors v. State Of Maharashtra & Ors., wherein the Apex Court had permitted a maximum NRI quota of 15% on two conditions: “First, such seats should be utilized bona fide by the NRIs only and for their children or wards. Secondly, within this quota, the merit should not be given a complete go-by.”

Prof. Basheer’s petition alleges that the NLUs have violated this judgment by prescribing that the candidates seeking admission through NRI quota need only be “NRI sponsored”. This, it said, allowed any rich privileged student in India with some far-flung nexus to an NRI to gain special unequal treatment, without scoring well enough in CLAT. It has, therefore, also sought constitution of an expert committee to review the working of the CLAT and suggest institutional reforms.

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