Joining the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) consortium does not necessarily mean a complete surrender of autonomy, the National Law School India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, argued in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Appearing before a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, senior advocate Arvind Datar for the NLSIU defended the premier law institutess decision to conduct its own separate entrance exam - the National Law Admission Test (NLAT) 2020.
The court is hearing a challenge against the NLAT. It has stopped the NLSIU from declaring the results till further orders. The Bench reserved the case for judgment to be pronounced on September 21.
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Joining CLAT did not mean I surrendered my autonomy. The bylaws [of CLAT consortium] are in the nature of a contract. Left to choose between bylaws and my Executive Council, I have to choose to obey my Executive Council under supervening circumstances, Mr. Datar said.
He was responding to Justice R. Subhash Reddys observation that the NLSIU, being part of the consortium, should have adhered to the bylaws.
Not out of consortium
The senior advocate said it was wrong to say that the NLSIU had exited the consortium. The university cannot be ousted from the consortium. They have no power to do so, he submitted.
Only seven of the 22-member consortium got together on August 28 to postpone the CLAT to September 28, he said. How could just seven members take this decision without consulting the other vice chancellors?, he asked.
Mr. Datar contended that this was a deliberate attempt to frustrate the unique trimester academic programmed of the NLSIU.
And if this August 28 decision had no force of law, where is the question of my disobedience? NLSIU has not exited CLAT. We will go back next year. This year we decided to go separately to avoid a zero year, he submitted.
Justice Reddy asked why only 23,000 aspirants out of a projected total of nearly 80,000 candidates took the NLAT on September 12.
Justice M.R. Shah pointed out that the NLSIU had itself admitted malpractices during the exam.
Mr. Datar said an FIR has already been registered.
Justice Shah pointed out that sudden changes in the exam pattern would have upset students preparations. They had prepared for a two-hour CLAT but were suddenly faced with a 45-minute NLAT, he said.