Disability Rights & CLAT | Supreme Court Passes Further Guidelines To Ensure Access To CLAT For Candidates With Disabilities
The Supreme Court of India on Friday passed guidelines to ensure better accessibility for candidates with disability to appear in CLAT examination. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a plea challenging the stringent conditions imposed by CLAT consortium on persons with disabilities intending to avail scribes.
Earlier, the court had remarked that the consortium only providing scribes to those with benchmark disabilities was against the judgement in Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission. The bench had, while stating that no deserving student shall be stopped from getting scribe, asked the petitioner to give the consortium the list of 13 specially-abled students appearing for CLAT 2023 so that the consortium could ensure that they were reasonably accommodated. Since the CLAT for 2023 had already taken place, the petitioner requested the court to make guidelines for upcoming years.
The counsel for petitioner submitted that there were following issues with the accessibility of CLAT–
1. While the advertisement for CLAT came out on 8th August 2022, guidelines came out 24th November 2022 for the exam which was held on 8th December 2022. Registration for the sane closed on 18th November 2022. Petitioner argued that the guidelines should be released along with the advertisement so as to ensure that candidates have clarity regarding the nature of the facilities made available to them.
2. Scribes were only provided to people with benchmark disability. Petitioner argued that scribes should also be provided to people with non-benchmark disabilities. He highlighted that the interim order which was passed by the court for CLAT 2023 could be extended for the same.
3. The petitioner submitted that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in its guidelines, prescribed that if a candidate is getting his own scribe, the qualification should be one step below him but above matriculation. However, the consortium didn't allow scribes who were enrolled in 12th grade or preparing for any competitive exam or enrolled in any coaching centre. He submitted that this would eliminate almost all students from 10th and 11th since they were all enrolled in some sort of coaching.
CLAT consortium submitted that it had no issues with releasing guidelines along with advertisement and assigning scribes to people with benchmark disabilities. However, it stated that since CLAT was MCQ based and consisted of common subjects such as English, Maths, logical reasoning, and GK, it would be against the integrity of the examination to permit scribes who could assist the candidate with their independent knowledge of the subject. It was further added that the CLAT Consortium would provide scribe to anyone who did not have one. It was highlighted that for CLAT 2023, 292 candidates registered as PwD candidates. 49 candidates opted to arrange a scribe by themselves. 33 requests were made for additional accommodation. Out of these 16 asked for scribe and 15 were granted with scribe and 1 withdrew.
Accordingly, while the court directed the CLAT consortium to provide scribes for people with non-bench mark disabilities as well and issue guidelines along with the advertisement of CLAT, it refused to ask the consortium to allow scribes who were in 12th standard or were enrolled with any coaching or preparing for any competitive examination.
CJI DY Chandrachud, while dictating the order, said–
"By an Office Memorandum (OM) following the decision in Vikash Kumar, guidelines have been formulated by Union Ministry in pursuance of an expert committee which was constituted to implement the judgement in Vikash Kumar. The OM requires all recruitment agencies and academic bodies among others to be advised appropriately to ensure compliance of guidelines. The consortium extended necessary facilities to PwD candidates. The issue which now survives is regarding modalities of future examinations conducted by CLAT. We accept the suggestion of petitioner and direct that in future guidelines applicable for facilities extended to PwD candidates should be advanced with advertisement. This would ensure that candidates have clarity regarding the nature of the facilities made available to them. The petitioner's counsel states that some of these suggestions have already been incorporated in the interim decision of this court and guidelines of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. We direct that CLAT shall in the future formulate modalities in a manner consistent with formulation placed before us so as to obviate any hindrance to PwD candidates."
The court also held that the consortium shall take steps to ensure that guidelines are consistent with OM issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and make consideration to provide scribes to any candidate who cannot get a scribe.
While allowing the request of the consortium that the scribe shouldn't be above 11th standard and should not be associated with exam or coaching centre, court said–
"It is necessary, in order to protect sanctity of exam that scribe doesn't provide independent answers to MCQs based on their knowledge. It would not be appropriate to ignore the consortium's request to maintain the integrity of the examination. However, the nature of guidelines cannot be frozen for future."
Case Title: Arnab Roy v. Consortium of NLU And Anr. WP(C) No. 1109/2022