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"Present Matter Has Pan India Ramifications, This Court Has No Territorial Jurisdiction To Adjudicate The Same'[Read Jharkhand HC Order Dismissing Plea Against NLAT]

Sparsh Upadhyay
11 Sep 2020 2:28 PM GMT
Present Matter Has Pan India Ramifications, This Court Has No Territorial Jurisdiction To Adjudicate The Same[Read Jharkhand HC Order Dismissing Plea Against NLAT]
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"The present matter has pan India ramifications and petitioners have failed to make out a strong ground so as to invoke the extraordinary writ jurisdiction of this Court which is otherwise plenary in nature, it would not be appropriate for this Court to interfere with the notice dated 03.09.2020 issued by NLSIU, Bengaluru", Jharkhand High Court said while dismissing the Writ petition challenging the decision of National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, to hold a separate admission test called the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT).

A Single Bench of Justice Rajesh Shankar had reserved the Orders on Thursday (10th September) on the petitions filed by 5 law aspirants from Jharkhand who challenged the decision of the NLSIU to hold a separate admission test and sought the quashing of the notice dated 03.09.2020 issued by NLSIU declaring that a separate examination for admission to its Five Years B.A, LL.B. (Hons.) degree programme will be held on 12.09.2020.

The Court acknowledged the fact that due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the CLAT 2020 was not conducted on the scheduled date and was shifted from time to time and presently the said examination is scheduled to be held on 28.09.2020.

In the meantime, the Court noted, on 03.09.2020 the NLSIU, Bengaluru came up with a notice informing inter alia that the NLSIU Bengaluru would be conducting a separate examination on 12.09.2020 for admission to its five years B.A. LL.B. (Hons) degree programme.

To get the information regarding the Arguments put forth in the Jharkhand High Court on Thursday (10th September), please refer to this article.

Court's Order

The Court took note of the fact that the examination of National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) 2020 is scheduled to be held on Saturday (12.09.2020) and the students from all over the country will appear in the said examination and thus, the primary question before this court is as to whether in the present facts and situation, would it be appropriate for this court, keeping in view the future prospects of thousands of students, to pass any direction which may have ramifications all over the country.

While relying on the Judgments of the Apex Court in the Cases of Narendra Kumar Maheshwari v. Union of India & Others 1990 Supp SCC 440, Chhavi Mehrotra v. Director General, Health Services 1995 Supp (3) SCC 434 and Union of India & Ors. Vs. R. Thiyagarajan 2020 SCC Online SC 349, the High Court concluded that there cannot be a straitjacket formula to deal with the cases affecting an all-India issue or having ramifications all over the country.

In this context, the Court noted,

"The High Courts themselves should introduce a certain amount of discipline having regard to the principles of comity of courts administering the same general laws applicable all over the country in respect of granting interim orders which will have repercussion or effect beyond the jurisdiction of the particular courts. Such an exercise will be a useful contribution in evolving good conventions in the federal judicial system."

The Court further remarked,

"It is not justified for a High Court to pass any order which has pan India repercussions. The reason behind it is that when the same issue is raised in different High Courts, there might be a possibility of different views coming up which would create an impossible situation for the implementing agency to comply with all the orders."

While relying on the Judgment of the Apex Court in the Case of Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd. Vs. Union of India & Another, reported in (2004) 6 SCC 254, the High Court said that even if a small part of the cause of action arises within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court, the same by itself may not be considered to be a determinative factor compelling the High Court to decide the matter on merit. The Court, in appropriate cases, may refuse to exercise its discretionary jurisdiction by invoking the doctrine of forum convenience.

Further, the Court observed,

"Most of the grounds taken by the petitioners in challenging the impugned notice dated 03.09.2020 issued by NLSIU, Bengaluru to conduct NLAT, 2020 are substantially based on the terms and conditions of the bylaws agreed amongst all the participating NLUs forming the CLAT Consortium, the secretariat of which is located at Bengaluru itself."

The Court also took into account the fact that the petitioners-students have also based their contentions on the alleged violation of different terms and conditions of the bylaws by NLSIU Bengaluru which is also located in the State of Karnataka.

To this, the Bench said,

"In my view, it primarily seems to be an inter se dispute between CLAT consortium and NLSIU Bengaluru and this court has no territorial jurisdiction to adjudicate the same."

The Court also took into account the fact that a similar writ petition was pending before the Apex Court.

It may be noted that the said petition was filed before the Hon'ble Supreme Court by a former Vice-Chancellor of NLSIU, Bengaluru, challenging the decision of NLSIU, Bengaluru to conduct a separate Law Entrance Examination i.e. NLAT, 2020.

On Friday (11th September), the Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan allowed the National Law School of India to conduct the Admission Test-NLAT2020 as per the schedule tomorrow.

However, the Bench restrained the Administration from declaring the results and making Admissions.

The issues of the Petitioners and NLSIU's reply noted by the High Court

When the High Court asked the counsel for the petitioners as to what prejudice has been caused to the petitioners by the action of the respondent no.1 in conducting NLAT, 2020, it was submitted that one of the technical requirements to appear in the said examination by maintaining the minimum bandwidth speed of 1 MBPS is arbitrary and unreasonable.

In response to that, it was submitted by the learned Senior Counsel for the respondent no.1, NLSIU, Bengaluru that the reduced speed now required internet bandwidth of 512 kbps which can easily be accessed by any of the candidates.

The learned counsel for the petitioners had also contended that no test centre has been provided in the State of Jharkhand, however, the said contention was refuted by Mr. Poovayya, submitting that a centre has already been provided in Dhanbad.

The learned counsel for the petitioners further contended that the pattern of the examination has been changed by the respondent no.1, which may cause prejudice to the interest of the petitioners.

Refuting the said contention, Mr. Poovayya submitted that the pattern of the examination has not been changed, rather the number of questions have been reduced and the purpose behind it is not to test the students strictly on the aptitude of the law but on general aptitude.

Consequently, the writ petition was dismissed.

It may be noted that earlier today (11-09-2020), the Madhya Pradesh High Court had allowed the petitioner to withdraw the petition challenging NLAT and approach appropriate High Court.

The aforesaid order was given in the plea filed by a CLAT aspirant, who had moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Jabalpur Bench) challenging the sudden withdrawal of NLSIU Bangalore from CLAT 2020, to hold a separate entrance test namely NLAT (National Law Aptitude Test) 2020.

Case Details:

Case Title: Xenia Dhar, Palak Sharma, Gaurav Mitra, Vishal Raj Singh and Aditya Raj v. NLSIU & Ors.

Case No.: W.P.(C) No.2454 of 2020

Quorum: Justice Rajesh Shankar

Appearance: Advocates Shubham Gautam & Baibhaw Gahlaut (for the Petitioners); Sajan Poovayya, Sr. Advocate & Advocate Indrajit Sinha (for respondent-NLSIU); Shreesha Sinha, A.C. to ASGI (For respondent-The Union of India); Advocate Manoj Tandon (for respondent-The Consortium of National Law Universities)

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]

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