SC cancels separate entrance exam of B’luru law school

The Supreme Court on Monday quashed the September 3 decision of National Law School of India University, Bengaluru (NLSIU) to hold a separate entrance exam, National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) for admission to its the 5 year integrated LLB programme and the postgraduate LLM programme in place of Common Law Admissions Test (CLAT).

A 3-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan ordered NLSIU to admit students based on CLAT 2020 and also directed the consortium of national law universities (NLUs) to conduct CLAT on September 28.

“The notice for admission to the five year integrated B.A.LL.B(Hons.) programme 2020-21 dated September 3, 2020 is quashed. The respondent No.1 (NLSIU) shall complete the admission of BA LL.B (Hons.) programme 2020-21 on the basis of the result of CLAT-2020,” the bench which also comprised justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah ordered.

CLAT should be conducted after taking all precautions and care for health of the students after following the standard operating procedures of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development, the court added.

The court also directed that declaration of results should be completed as early as possible so as to enable NLUs to start their courses by mid-October.

Admission to LLB courses offered by 22 National Law Universities (NLUs) in different states is based on the CLAT score which is held every year by a consortium of NLUs. CLAT is scheduled to be held on September 28.

However, NLSIU decided that it would hold a separate entrance test this year, the NLAT, in view of the delay in conducting CLAT due to Covid-19. A notification was also issued on September 3 announcing its decision to hold NLAT.

“Candidates will be selected on the basis of the aggregate marks secured in an online home-based Entrance Examination known as NLAT. The NLAT 2020 will test applicants for admission to the undergraduate B.A., LL.B. (Hons) and postgraduate LL.M programmes commencing in 2020,” the notification said.

It also made it clear that NLSIU will not accept CLAT 2020 scores for admission for the academic Year 2020-21. According to the notification, NLSIU preferred to opt out of CLAT this year because it has to complete admissions before the end of September 2020 failing which it will inevitably result in a ‘Zero Year’ with no admission. This is because the NLSIU follows a trimester system with 3 terms of 90 days duration.

“Each term must accommodate 60 hours of classroom instruction in each course and adequately provide for examination and evaluation processes. Further, the academic offering for the 3rd, 4th and 5th year of the B.A., LL.B programme as well as the LL.M programme is fully integrated and requires a common academic calendar,” the notification explained.

Later another notification was issued stipulating technical requirements for writing the exam. As per the notification, candidates were to have a computer system with minimum internet bandwidth of 1 Mbps and exams can be given using laptops or desktops alone with integrated webcam and microphone. Further, only Windows operating system would be allowed.

Dr. Venkat Rao, who was a former Vice Chancellor at NLSIU, approached the Supreme Court challenging NLAT stating that the decision taken by the Executive Council of NLSIU to conduct NLAT was illegal and without any legal authority.

Further, the notification mandating technical requirements to give the exam are onerous and cast unreasonable burden on students, the plea said. A parent of one of the law school aspirants was also a petitioner along with Rao.

The Supreme Court had on September 11 allowed NLSIU to hold NLAT as an interim measure but asked the university not to declare results or admit students till the court arrives at a final decision. The university had conducted NLAT pursuant to that order.

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