The Vice Chancellor of NLSIU, Professor Dr. Sudhir Krishnaswamy & the Registrar (on behalf of the University), Prof. Sarasu E. Thomas have filed a counter affidavit in the petition filed by Former Vice Chancellor of NLSIU, Prof. (Dr.) R. Venkata Rao and an aggrieved parent of a CLAT aspirant, challenging the sudden withdrawal of NLSIU Bangalore from CLAT 2020, to hold a separate entrance test namely NLAT 2020.
NLSIU has stated that the decision to implement NLAT 2020 was entirely justified and that the decision was in the public interest and in the interest of students at large, because implementation of NLAT 2020 is the only way to avoid a 'Zero Year', where students will lose the opportunity to join NLSIU in the current academic year.
Elaborating further, the University has contended that the academic year at NLSIU must be of at least 285 days' duration and that the academic year for the incoming batch of first-year students for the Academic Year 2020-21 will fall short of 285 days if NLSIU does not complete admissions by September 18.
It is stated that the implementation of NLAT 2020 is also permitted under, and in accordance with, applicable law and the the Memorandum of Association and Bye-Laws of the Consortium of National Law Schools, which conducts the CLAT exam, do not prohibit a member from conducting its own admissions test to determine admissions, especially when CLAT is not held by the Consortium.
"As per the NLSI Act, the Executive Council is the Chief Executive Body of NLSIU. The Executive Council has categorically authorised the Respondent No.1 conduct its own admissions process. The impugned examination, NLAT, is held pursuant to the said categorical and unanimous decision of the Executive Council"
On the aspect of maintainability, the University states that the petitioner no. 1 who claims to be the father of an aspiring law student has not placed any materials on record to depict the said fact.
"...it is neither averred that the child of the Petitioner No.1 is a minor, nor is any material or evidence depicting his I her minor status placed on record. As such, the Petitioner No.1 has no right to move the Petition on behalf of his child. Pertinently, no student has, himself or herself, filed any proceedings calling NLAT 2020 in question before this Hon'ble Court"
Further, the petition is not maintainable because the Petitioner No. 1, Professor Venkata Rao is the Chairperson of a private law college, viz., Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies college is not a member of the Consortium and is not aggrieved in any manner.
NLSIU elaborates on the sequence of events that led to the NLAT2020 and states that in view of the need to complete admissions and commencement of the course by September 18, made substantial, bona fide efforts to convince the Consortium to facilitate the conduct of CLAT 2020 in a timely manner but several negotiations failed.
"NLSIU, being left with no other alternative, had to act with alacrity to complete the admissions process and commence classes by 18.09.2020, and avoid a 'Zero Year'. 37. In this backdrop, and pursuant to the directions and instructions of the Executive Council at the meetings dated 12.08.2020 and 18.08.2020 to devise alternative methods to complete admissions, the Respondent No.2 convened a Admissions Committee to consider the modalities for completing admissions."
A decision to conduct the NLAT was notified only upon completing the due processes "and pursuant to permission granted by this Hon'ble Court in its Order dated 11.09.2020 in the above proceedings, that NLSIU has implemented NLAT 2020 with a view to avoid declaring a 'Zero Year"
Next, the university states that the decision of the Executive Committee to conduct the NLAT is legal and well within the powers of the NLSI Act viz. Section 10.
"As a matter of historical practice as well, the Executive Council is the supreme authority which is empowered to take decisions as the chief executive body of the school"
It is averred that NLAT 2020 is also implemented in a non-exploitative manner, by limiting the application fee for the test to just RS.150/-for general candidates and Rs.125/-for SC and ST candidates in order to ensure that students are not put to financial burden due to the NLAT. Further, since the exam is an online home-based examination, students do not need to physically go to an additional test centre, the counter reads.
Professor Sudhir Krishnaswamy has urged the Court to permit the University to release the examination results of NLAT 2020 and complete its admissions, so as to commence the academic programme, in a timely manner and as per its revised academic calendar.
"Delays in the CLAT 2020 exam have resulted in an existential crisis for India's premier law university, NLSIU. The Executive Council, the Faculty, and I, as the Vice-Chancellor, have acted in the best interests of the University and the student community, to conduct NLAT 2020, and to ensure that aspirants avoid losing a year. For the reasons shown herein and in the Counter-Affidavit filed by NLSIU, I submit that the implementation of NLAT 2020 is wholly lawful and justified"
It is stated by the VC that he a proper nor necessary Party to the present proceedings and that he is supplementing the stand of the University.
"The Petitioners have sought to implead me on basis of vague and unsubstantiated allegations. However, the Affidavit filed by the Respondent No.1-University clearly discloses that the said allegations are wholly without basis. Further, all impugned decisions are, as per the said Affidavit, based on decisions of the University, and not my decisions alone. Therefore, at the very outset, I pray that this Hon'ble Court may be pleased to reject the allegations made against me and direct the Petitioners to delete me from the array of parties"
Professor Sudhir Krishnaswamy has stated that on September 3, he held a virtual Zoom Meeting with the nominee of the Chancellor of the Executive Council, Hon'ble Mr. Justice U.U. Lalit, to obtain approval regarding the proposed course of action for the NLAT 2020 and the same was approved in the said meeting.
Further, the Vice Chancellor has stated that the Consortium, through its Convenor is not authorised issue a press release stating that Prof. Krishnaswamy was purportedly divested of his position as Secretary-Treasurer and NLSIU was purportedly barred from all CLAT-related activities.
It is averred that NLSIU and him learnt of most of these proceedings of the Executive Council of the Consortium, principally through press releases issued by the Consortium
"Till date, neither I, as the Secretary-Treasurer nor NLSIU, as a member, have received any formal communication (other than the email dated 09.09.2020)from the Consortium related to the membership of NLSIU in the Consortium, or the aforesaid decision regarding my role as Secretary-Treasurer"