Supreme Court on 11th September heard a plea filed by former NLSIU VC challenging the NLAT exam scheduled the next day. The Court decided to allow the test to be held as scheduled.
Brief Facts of the Case
National Law School India University (NLSIU), a premier law school of the country, on 3rd September announced that it has decided to withdraw from admitting students via the Common Law Admission Test for the academic year 2021. Instead, they would be holding a separate law entrance test, National Law Admission Test (NLAT) on September 12th through online mode at home.
Various High Courts received pleas challenging this decision of NLSIU. They stated that this decision amounted to fundamental rights violations of the candidates.
This specific Plea had been filed by Former Vice-Chancellor of NLSIU, Prof (Dr) R. Venkata Rao with an aggrieved parent of a CLAT aspirant.
The Petitioners prayed that the September 3rd decision of NLSIU should be quashed. They asked for the Court to direct schools to admit students based on their CLAT scores. The University had taken this step while completely ignoring the aspirations of poor, marginalized, and less privileged aspirants.
Arguments by Petitioner
The Plea was filed by Advocate Sugosh Subramyam and Advocate Vipin Nair. They submitted that this unilateral decision of the University threw the aspirants into a frenzy. It violated their fundamental rights under Article 14 and Article 21.
Further, the Petitioners contend that this action is nothing but an attempt to create an elitist institution. It is limiting the institution to only those who can afford to take the test and follow other conditions imposed by the University.
The Plea stated that this is an attempt to turn this Island of Excellence into the Island of Exclusion.
The Petitioners submitted that this move by NLSIU to conduct a separate entrance violates the bylaws of the Consortium. Also, the examination standard is something that is decided by the Academic Council and the Executive Council. That isn’t subject to amendment or repeal.
The Senior Advocate Nidheesh Gupta explained the Memorandum of Association of the NLU Consortium to the Bench. He showed that any NLU that is a part of the Consortium is required to organize CLAT for admission across all law courses. Additionally, the decision to postpone CLAT was taken given the situation in West Bengal and Bihar which NLSIU was a part of.
Arguments by the Respondents
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar requested to present his argument as the exam was to be held the next day. NLSIU is the only law school having a trimester system and had appealed to the Consortium not to delay this exam beyond September.
This delay in admission is resulting in a loss of 16 crores for the University. He added that NLAT was only for the current year, and they will return to CLAT from the following year.
The Bench observed that the issue at hand is of most importance. The Respondent’s Counsel Senior Advocate Arvind Datar should file a counter-affidavit. Further, the Bench observed that the Respondents could be allowed to conduct the exam since they had already decided on it. Even the students are willing to take the exam. However, the result and the following admission process will be on hold.
The Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan ordered that the Respondent University will go ahead with the exam on the following day. However, the results and admissions will be subject to the decision of this Court. The parties were directed to file the counter-affidavits within three days.
The matter was posted for the next hearing on 16th September.
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