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The Bombay High Court has refused to grant any interim stay on the Maharashtra Common Entrance Test for law scheduled to be held in two days time.
A bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and Dr. Shalini P Joshi said that they would hear the larger questions involved, but would not stay the examination itself. The court also clarified that the eventual outcome of the examination would be subject to the final judgment of the court.
The court will now hear the matter on the 27th of this month.
The petitioner, Shalini Kotian, was represented by counsel Satish B Talekar, while the state government was represented by counsel LM Acharya.
Today’s hearings in the Bombay High Court took place even as the first challenge to the Law CET was argued before the Aurangabad bench an hour later. In fact, the Aurangabad petition was filed in May this year, and has seen several adjournments thereon.
Following today’s hearing in Mumbai, the Aurangabad bench has adjourned the matter once again; the court will hear the petition at two-thirty tomorrow afternoon.
Irrespective of what the high court eventually decides, the two petitions raise some worrying questions about the manner in which the CET was introduced, and will be conducted. For example, both petitions state that the Maharashtra Law CET is being conducted under the Maharashtra Unaided Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulations of Admission and Fees) Act of 2015 [pdf].
However, this Act does not cover governmental institutions at all; the relevant law here would be the Maharashtra Universities Act of 1994 [pdf]. Under this Act, more specifically S.65, any rules relating to admission have to be framed at least six months before the start of the academic year to which the rules apply.
There are other, equally significant allegations made against the CET. For instance, the Bombay petition states that there are no guidelines for students with visual impairments, as is the case with the Bombay petitioner Shalini Kotian.
Furthermore, there are discrepancies in the syllabus itself with different syllabi being published across different fora (compare this and this). In fact, SC Dharmadhikari J today said that the State CET cell employed those with a technical background, and may not be the ideal body to conduct law entrance examinations.
Then, there is an apparent lack of clarity when it comes to the post-examination counselling. It is not clear how the preference list is to be filled up and how the counselling will take place.
And it is not just the students who may suffer; as per the petitions, there are more than 34,000 seats for the undergraduate law course. But the number of applications received are roughy 28,000, meaning that a minimum of 6,000 seats will go empty. In fact, the actual number of empty seats is likely to be higher.
As far as the Bombay petition is concerned, the State has agreed that there were indeed larger questions of law involved. It remains to be seen what will happen in the Bombay High Court on June 27.
Update: The petition before the Aurangabad Bench was not pressed on Friday, and hence the matter will now rest with the Principal Bench in Bombay.