In an interesting turn of events, Prof Shamnad Basheer’s PIL for streamlining the conduct of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for National Law Universities (NLUs) has seen yet another contender to take up the responsibility of holding the exam.
Recurring tales of CLAT question paper errors, maladministration, and inconsistent policies, as well as the absence of a permanent body to conduct the exam, had prompted Basheer to file a PIL in 2015.
After the Centre made it clear that it is not concerned with the conduct of CLAT, Basheer’s plea for the institutional reform of CLAT hinged upon the response of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the NLUs.
Now, in addition to the both the BCI and NLU heads volunteering to man the conduct of CLAT, the National Testing Agency (NTA) has also expressed its willingness to conduct CLAT from the next academic year.
During a hearing concerning the conduct of NEET, which the NTA will be conducting next year, the Supreme Court had queried whether the agency would be willing to take up the responsibility for the conduct of CLAT as well. In response, the NTA filed an affidavit in Basheer’s PIL yesterday, stating that,
“[the] NTA is willing to take up the responsibility for conducting the CLAT examiniation from the Academic session 2019-2020 onwards, if desired by this Hon’ble Court.”
The agency, which also handles the conduct of JEE (Main), NEET-UG, CMAT, CPAT and the assessment for grant of fellowship by UGC-NET, describes itself as a premier, specialist, autonomous and self-sustained testing organisation set up by the Indian government. Its affidavit goes on to assure,
“Under the aegis of the NTA, the best subject matter experts, psychometricians and IT delivery and security professionals will ensure that the current gaps in existing assessment systems are properly identified and bridged.“
In the meanwhile, the BCI has reiterated that it has the exclusive prerogative to conduct CLAT, relying on its powers to regulate Indian legal education standards under the Advocates Act, 1961.
To make its case for handling the conduct of CLAT, an affidavit filed last month also makes reference to the BCI’s successful conduct of the All India Bar Exam (AIBE) over the years.
“… the answering respondent has been successfully conducting the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) under the orders passed by this Hon’ble Court and has appointed Committee of experts to conduct the same since year 2011, there has been no complaint from any corner with regard to fairness or impartiality of these Exams.
The monitoring committee of All India Bar Examination is headed by a former Judge of this Hon’ble Court and it also consists of noted academicians. The elected members of Bar Council of India are not involved with the process of monitoring the said examination and that the answering respondent Bar Council of India has the requisite expertise as it has been conducting AIBE without any major hiccups until now.“
Even so, the BCI had also supported the framing of guidelines by the Supreme Court for the conduct of law entrance exams.
“… the Hon’ble Court may consider the issues raised by the petitioner and suggest and evolve a procedure and issue necessary guidelines for conducting such admission tests for entry into law courses.“
Meanwhile, the NLU Consortium has also initiated historic measures from its end towards ensuring a more reliable conduct of the CLAT.
To this end, the Consortium recently announced the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the conduct of CLAT. In view of the technical glitches that have marred the conduct of the online exam in the past, the Consortium had also decided that the 2019 exam would be held offline.
Read the NTA’s affidavit here:
Read the BCI’s additional affidavit here: