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In what might be the only litigation involving this year’s Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), the Madhya Pradesh High Court recently dismissed a candidate’s challenge to the exam.
Kaustubh Tiwari had filed a writ petition seeking a revaluation of his marks in light of alleged discrepancies in the question paper. Tiwari, who scored 120 marks, prayed that he be granted admission to NLSIU Bangalore or NLIU Bhopal. The petitioner, through counsel Atulanand Awasthy, also claimed that he would have secured admission in a national law university had he been given one more mark.
Advocate Kapil Duggal, and alumnus of NLIU Bhopal, represented the CLAT Convenor. He argued that an elaborate procedure was followed to analyse objections before the results were declared. The objections were scrutinised by an Internal Working Committee, followed by the Committee constituting Subject Experts, then a High Powered Committee comprising two retired High Court judges and three other members and finally the CLAT Core Committee consisting of Vice-Chancellors of all seventeen National Law Universities.
Ultimately, it was found that one question was erroneous, and another was withdrawn, as it fell out of the syllabus. Subsequently, the CLAT website had notified the same on May 20, and declared the paper to be out of 199 marks, and not 200.
Duggal also argued that the cut-offs for NLSIU and NLIU were 161.25 and 147.5 respectively and that even if the petitioner was granted one or two more marks, he would not have made it to either university.
RS Jha and Rajendra Mahajan JJ held that the CLAT authorities had followed the procedure according to law and that there was no discrepancy on their part. Consequently, the petition was dismissed.
Though this year’s exam, conducted by RGNUL Patiala, has been largely uncontroversial, some candidates have pointed out a few discrepancies. For instance, the requirement that 3% of seats in government institutions should be reserved for persons with disabilities, has not been followed by all NLUs. NUSRL, Ranchi and MNLU, Mumbai have no reservation for PwD candidates at all, whereas DSNLU Visakhapatnam and HNLU Raipur do not meet the 3% threshold.
Other NLUs have not rounded off the 3% in the correct manner, i.e. when the 3% translates into a fraction, it has been rounded it down rather than up.
Another gripe is that a consolidated rank list was never released by CLAT, prompting calls of lack of transparency. Without the list, there was no method of determining which student belonged to what category. An example is given in the NALSAR allotment lists, wherein one Kallem Pavan was identified as a state domicile Scheduled Caste candidate, when in fact, he was a PwD candidate.
This was later rectified by the authorities in the subsequent list.
Despite these shortcomings, the conduct of this year’s exam remains a far cry from CLAT 2015, which saw at least six different high courts hearing challenges to the exam hosted by RMNLU Lucknow.
Last year’s exam even found its way to the Supreme Court of India, after Shamnad Basheer filed a petition calling for a permanent CLAT body.
Read the MP High Court’s order: