The Supreme Court on Monday quashed the admission of students under the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) 2020 conducted by the National Law School India University in Bengaluru amid the pandemic.
The court had allowed the conduct of NLAT but had ordered the university to freeze the declaration of the results. Over 23,000 of the scheduled 78,000 aspirants had taken the online exam that was held on September 12 together with a re-test two days later amid reports of widespread malpractices and leakage of questions.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan quashed the notice and press release issued by the NLSIU on the conduct of the NLAT on September 3 and 4, respectively.
All students will now appear for the Common Law Aptitude Test (CLAT) scheduled for September 28 for admissions to 22 premier national law schools, including NLSIU, across the country.
Thousands of the students who aspire to have a career in law look forward to the CLAT as a prestigious test and CLAT has proved its usefulness and utility in this country. Students look forward to the consortium for providing correct and fair assessment of the merits of the students, the court observed.
The consortium will hold CLAT-2020, taking all precautions and care for health of the students after following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The CLAT results should be declared at the earliest so that the courses can start by mid-October.
This is a victory for over 70,000 law aspirants across the country. With this judgment, disadvantaged students who could not afford the technical requirements for NLAT will get a fair chance through CLAT marks for a seat in NLSIU, advocate Vipin Nair, who appeared for the petitioner, former NLSIU Vice-Chancellor R. Venkat Rao, reacted to the judgment.
The consortium has been asked to restore NLSIU Vice-Chancellor Sudhir Krishnaswamy as its secretary-treasurer keeping in mind that scheduled exam of CLAT-2020 on September 28 is not hampered in any manner.
The court did not intervene in the allegations of malpractices that allegedly occurred during the NLAT exam. It restrained itself to saying that NLSIU should have taken all necessary precautions to avoid any malpractices and cheating in the examination. It noted that the varsity has already filed a complaint with the cyber cell of the police.
It said when the CLAT cannot be held online, NLSIU had no business holding NLAT that way as it could not to have ensured transparency, fairness and integrity.
When home-based online test could not have been permitted for CLAT-2020, the same test can also not be permitted for NLAT-2020, the court said.
The court dismissed NLSIUs submission that the by-laws of the consortium was only in the nature of a contract and there was no need to adhere to them if it affected the universitys autonomy.
Every institution maintains its autonomy as per the statute governing, the obligation to maintain core value of the Consortium in no manner affects the autonomy of the member university. The core values of the Consortium aim to enhance the prestige and content of legal education, the court held.
It declared that the by-laws of the consortium are binding on its members.
The by-laws under which members are required to admit the students in their law universities on the basis of the CLAT for UG and PG law courses are binding on the members. By-laws, although, are non-statutory but they have been framed with the aim and object to be followed by its members, the court held.
The court refused the argument by NLSIU that it conducted the NLAT to prevent a zero year.
Universities are not powerless to modify their academic calendar looking to the pandemic. The academic year 2020-21 is not a normal year in which universities are expected to carry on their teaching and other activities in normal mode and manner. The NLSIU could have very well found out ways and means to start the academic under-graduate law course even if it starts in mid-October 2020 after conduct of the CLAT, the verdict reasoned.
The court said the NLSIU should have consulted its academic council before issuing the NLAT exam notification.