Five CLAT aspirants has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Jharkhand High Court Judgment which dismissed their petition challenging the NLSIU's decision to hold a separate Admission Test -NLAT2020
According to the petitioners the entire purpose of CLAT would be frustrated by the holding of a separate NLAT by NLSIU as is sought to be done for the current academic year. Moreso, in the current scenario, where during the Covid-19 pandemic, aspirants would have to expose themselves to further risk by appearing for multiple examinations.
The NLAT was conceived to be a home-based proctored online examination wherein candidates were to attempt the examination using a computer device at their respective location.
Petitioners submitted that a home proctored admission test may not be able to curb the menace of cheating thereby jeopardizing the entire admission process as was recently witnessed in a home proctored exam by a leading private university in the country. In view of the demands of many students to have test centres across the country due to non-availability of adequate resources to appear in a home proctored test, NLSIU made certain arrangements for the same. However, it is submitted that the arrangements were inadequate and prejudicial to the interest of students in the current circumstances.
The Petitioners also submitted that the conduct of the NLAT on 12.09.2020 also left a lot to be desired, for the following reasons:
1. multiple issues related to verification, login, and facial recognition through their webcams.
2. complaints regarding not being able to take simulation exams.
3. great difficulty in contacting physical test centres for registration.
4. test centres in only 40 cities in the country (centres only in 20 States & 3 UTs, leaving 8 states and 5 UTs without any test centre).
5. less time being given than scheduled time of 45 minutes.
6. automatic submission of test paper much before scheduled time.
7. arbitrary warnings being given to the candidates.
8. inadequate infrastructure at test centres.
9. unresponsive helpline number.
10. various complaints made to NLSIU regarding use of unfair means by candidates.
"NLSIU ought not to be permitted to change the rules of the game midway. The Petitioners had registered for CLAT as far back as in January 2020 on the understanding that the same would govern admission to 23 National Law Schools all over the country, including the NLSIU".
High Court Judgment
"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.
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 present petition has been filed through by advocates Shubham Gautam, Baibhaw Gahlaut through the chambers of Kush Chaturvedi, AOR Aditya Shekhar, Adv. Priyashree Sharma, Adv.