The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that it shall deliver judgment on the plea challenging the conduct of a separate examination (NLAT) by National Law University of India, Bangalore on Monday.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah was hearing a plea filed by Former VC of NLSIU, Prof. (Dr.) RV Rao and an aggrieved law school aspirant challenging the sudden withdrawal of NLSIU from Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2020 and its decision to hold the separate National Law Admission Test (NLAT).
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar & Sajan Povayya appeared for the University and the VC of the University and made submissions.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing on behalf of NLSIU, commenced his submission on how the concurrence of the Academic Council was not required for the conduct of NLAT and that the Executive Council (EC) only needed the concurrence of the Academic Council to amend regulations of NLSIU.
Datar initially raised the issue of locus standi and submitted that NLAT should have been challenged by CLAT itself. But, the Petitioner was a former VC. On the aspect of maintainability, Datar said that the VC was not associated with NLAT at all and yesterday, they had written to NLSIU saying that funds of Rs. 4 crore had to be transferred.
Datar then read out the bylaws, objectives and the functions, constitution of the governing body to the Bench.
"This is only a society, not cooperative society. We are registered under the Societies Registration Act. Bylaws are not fully implemented. For MPhil, we conducted our own exam. For autonomy, we can conduct separate exam. We said that will go back to CLAT 2020 next year. If, for some reason they are unable to comply in light of extraordinary situations, I can conduct my own exam", submitted Datar.
Datar continued that even though it was said that NLSIU had violated the Rules, "where is the provision to hold a general body meeting? Where is the provision to transfer the funds to Hyderabad? What about the Consortium's conduct?"
Senior Advocates PS Narsimha & Nikhil Nayyar appeared on behalf of the Petitioners and intervenors.
Poovayya said that the AI proctored examination by the university was well invigilated and all those students who indulged in malpractices were disqualified.
Om September 11, Supreme Court 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 has restrained the Administration from declaring the results and making Admissions.
"In the meantime, the examination for admission in pursuance of Notification dated 04.09.2020 may take place but neither the result shall be declared nor any admission be made consequent thereto. We make it clear that conducting of examination shall be subject to the outcome of the writ petition".Yesterday, the Supreme Court Bench had heard arguments advanced by Senior Advocates Nidhesh Gupta and Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing on behalf of the Petitioners.
The plea filed though Advocates Sughosh Subramyam and Vipin Nair states that such "unilateral decision" of NLSIU to hold a separate examination has thrown the aspirants of CLAT 2020 into a frenzy and is a serious violation of their fundamental rights, including the right against arbitrary actions of the State secured under Article 14 and the right to education and other concomitant rights under Article 21.
It is contended that the move is solely directed at creating an "elitist institution" which caters to those who are able to afford to take the test and have the luxury fulfil other "absurd conditions" imposed by the University.
Notably, NLSIU has released the technical requirements for taking NLAT 2020. The same mandates a computer system/ laptop with at least 1 Mbps bandwidth.
The plea contends that such a condition is onerous and an unreasonable obligation upon aspiring students. The decision seems to have been taken without any application of mind and while completely ignoring the aspirations of poor, marginalized, and less privileged candidates.
"Ostensibly it appears that the sole aim of the Respondent No. 2 [NLSIU VC Prof. [Dr.] Sudhir Krishnaswamy] is to turn the Respondent No. 1 [NLSIU] from an island of excellence to an island of exclusion," the plea states.
They have contended that the decision has created a a state of fear and confusion among students and it has also severely jeopardized the position of NLSIU in the NLU Consortium.
It is thus prayed that the NLSIU Admission Notice dated September 3 be quashed and the University be directed to admit students only through CLAT 2020 scores.
Other grounds taken by the Petitioners include:
Remaining a part of the Consortium, NLSIU could not have opted to conduct a separate examination and the impugned decision is ex-facie contrary to the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between the Universities and the Bye-laws of the Consortium.
It is highly arbitrary for NLSIU to proceed for a home-proctored admission test, when there is sufficient evidence to show that such admission tests are a vehicle for students to cheat.
Impugned Admission Notice is contrary to decision of the SC in T.M.A. Pai Foundation & Ors v. State of Karnataka & Ors, (2002) 8 SCC 481, which highlighted the need of "common and uniform admission test" in order to save the students from hardship of appearing in multiple admission test.
Impugned Admission Notice was released on September 9 and the examination is scheduled to be conducted on September 12, leaving very little time for students to be mentally prepared for the examination and further burdening them with an additional examination during a pandemic.
NLSIU has set a "bad precedent" wherein any NLU may sever its ties from the Consortium at any point and embark on its own course of action in terms of conducting its admission tests.
All the NLUs forming part of the consortium are dealing with similar issues and have decided to take appropriate steps, in consultation with each other. NLSIU does not merit any special consideration and the NLSIU VC is not entitled to unilaterally make decisions which jeopardize the University's future and its standing amongst the consortium.
Conduction of tests in fear of 'Zero year' is disproportional and arbitrary, as NLSIU could have reduced its subject syllabus by 30% to make up for the loss of time due to Covid-19 this Year. Alternatively there could have been reduction in subjects, instead of such drastic disproportional measures.
Deadline for filling up of forms is September 10 and the examination is to be conducted on September 12. A prospective candidate will have only one day in between to give a mock test and familiarize himself with the pattern and mode of the NLAT.
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 plea filed by the parent of a CLAT aspirant has been filed through Advocate on Record Kush Chaturvedi.