The High Court of Jharkhand has dismissed the writ petition challenging the decision of National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, to hold a separete admission test called the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT), after backing out of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for want of jurisdiction.
A single bench of Justice Rajesh Shankar reserved the Orders on Thursday on petition filed by 5 law aspirants from Jharkhand who challenged the decision of the NLSIU to hold a separate admission test.
At the outset, the judge asked the petitioners' counsel, Advocate Shubham Gautam, how they were prejudiced by the exam.
The counsel replied that the pattern of the exam was different and only a short notice of 10 days time was granted for the new test.
The bench also asked why the petitioners chose to approach the Jharkhand HC. Justice Shankar noted that the NLSIU and the NLU Consortium are situation within the jurisdiction of Karnataka HC, and said that if different High Courts pass conflicting orders, confusion will be created in the issue having pan-India ramifications.
Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, appearing for the NLSIU, submitted that a similar petition was pending before the Supreme Court. Raising the plea of forum non-conveniens, he urged the High Court to refrain from exercising jurisdiction.
Justice Shankar then sought clarifications from Poovayya regarding the arrangements for the exam, and about the complaints of difficulties raised by the students.
Poovayya informed the bench that all arrangments for the test have been made. Initially, there was a condition for having an internet speed of 1 Mbps. This was later revised as 512 Kbps.
"We have made arrangements for students who reached out to us regarding the inaccessibility of internet access with IDIALaw. If we don't start the year, we will have a zero year. We have 30298 students ready to write the examination", he told the bench. He further said that the deadline for registration was ending today.
"Everything is panned out. The dates are out. We will start the academic year from September 18", he said.
Following this, the judge asked the petitioner's counsel about the difficulties which they were apprehending.
In reply, Advocate Gautam cited an article written by Professor Faizan Mustafa, the Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR, in LiveLaw about the problems of NLAT.
Justice Shankar replied that he was not interested in anyone else's opinion and wanted to know the difficulties faced by the petitioners.
When the counsel mentioned about internet glitches, Poovayya assured that all such issues have been addressed.
"Any student who gets logged out for a few minutes, students will not be removed from the examination", he submitted.
The petition was filed by 5 CLAT aspirants from Jharkhand, stating that NLSIU's decision to withdraw from CLAT and to hold a separate examination, despite being a "permanent member" of the NLU Consortium, is unlawful and arbitrary.
The Petitioners have contended that the University has changed its stance after filling of the CLAT forms and is thus in violation of principle of promissory estoppel. Further, declaration of new pattern of examination by the University, around 10 days before the declared date of CLAT, is illegal and against the established precedents of the Supreme Court for the conduct of "fair and just examination".
Moreover it is contended that the move is violative of clause 15.7 (Voluntary withdrawal of member institution) of the bye laws of the Consortium of NLUs.
It was on September 3 that the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, announced its decision to hold a separate test for admission to five year B.A LL.B(Hons) course for the academic year 2020-21. The new test called the 'National Law Aptitude Test' (NLAT) is proposed to be held online on September 12.
The Petitioners have urged the Court to set aside this decision and to grant ad-interim, ex-parte stay on the effect and operation of the notice during pendency of the petition.
The Petition has been filed through Advocates Shubham Gautam and Baibhaw Gehlaut