NLSIU is a premier university that was established with the initiative of the Supreme Court and Karnataka High Court in the footsteps of NUJS and NALSAR. It provides 5 years B.A.LLB course, among others. All the NLUs hold a common test for the admission of their students. This was decided in 2007 and was a great relief for law aspirants. This exam was conducted in different centres throughout the whole country. Since then, the number of NLUs kept increasing and there are currently 23 NLUs in India. In 2018, there was a meeting for a more efficient and transparent exam and the vice-chancellor of NLSIU was made as ex-offico secretary. The Consortium efficiently conducted CLAT 2019 exam offline. In the academic year 2020-21, CLAT was to be held on 21.05.2020 but due to the pandemic and nation wise lockdown imposed, CLAT was postponed to 29.6.2020 online. Then again it was postponed to 7.8.2020 and then to 28.9.2020.
NLSIU conducted a faculty meeting discussing to prevent the “zero year” and if there were any more delays, the VC of NLSIU had the power to conduct a separate exam. Thereafter, the VC declared a separate examination for the year 2020-21 called NLAT. After a Petition was filed, the Court asked NLSIU to conduct exams but not to declare results.
Nidhesh Gupta appearing for the Petitioner pointed out that the NLAT examination breached the statutory provision of the Act. The Petitioner also submitted that 76,000 students registered for CLAT out of which only 1/3rd registered for NLAT and said that there was no transparency and reliability of the test as retest papers were leaked and students might have cheated. The test was to be given online from home and only the ones who could meet the technical support could attend the exam. The poor students were therefore deprived. Further, the Petitioner argued that NLSIU could not conduct its entrance exam while being a member of the Consortium and said that the decision of the VC of NLSIU is very risky as it puts thousands of aspirants in hardship who sought to enrol in NLSIU. Counsel also argued that the executive council cannot take any decision without concurring with the academic council.
Arvind Datar appearing for the Respondent contended that the executive council needed to accord with the academic council only when there was any amendment of any regulation. Here, there was no amendment relating to the conducting of NLAT. It was only for maintaining the standard of education and the executive council was entitle to make rules and regulations. Justice Bhushan asked about the students deprived because of its premier nature and asked to address the issue of Article 14 violation. Justice Bhushan also asked that the Respondent was registered under society and held CLAT. Being governed by the Consortium, they could not go against that mandate. Datar said that NLSIU was part of the society and asked the Consortium to conduct the examination early as NLSIU had a trimester system. A delay in it could cause zero years. No response was given from the Consortium. Datar also submitted that NLSIU did not exit the consortium but is not a part of it for the year 2020-21. Regarding the paper leak, he said there was some malpractice on which FIR was lodged. Justice Bhushan asked about why only 2000 students appeared for the examination, it was more due to the shortage of time for registration. In response to this, Respondents argued that 9 days were given which was enough for the registration. To ensure safety, an online examination was conducted.
NLSIU conducting its entrance exam would put students in hardship, and the VC of NLSIU kept this decision in the dark earlier. The zero year justification made by NLSIU was bogus and rejected as there were several other modes to suitably modify the academic year. The NLUs came together to increase the standard of legal education, and the decision of NLSIU goes against the said objective. The Court asked the Consortium to conduct CLAT examination early to enable studies to be started from mid-October.
A Supreme Court Bench compromising of Justice Bushan, Justice R Shah and Justice Reddy struck down the decision of NLSIU of conducting a separate entrance examination NLAT and directed to admit the students based on CLAT scores.
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