In a significant development, the Supreme Court today expressed an inclination towards handing the responsibility of conducting the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) to the National Testing Agency (NTA).
A Bench of Justices SA Bobde, L Nageswara Rao and R Subhash Reddy told Senior Advocate PS Narasimha, who was appearing for the consortium of National Law Universities,
“It would be better if you associate with NTA and provide them raw material. That way you won’t have to face allegations also.”
The Court, however, did not pass any order in this regard.
When the matter was taken up today, Narasimha informed the Court about the formation of a Consortium of the NLUs with a permanent secretariat to conduct CLAT.
“We have decided to form a permanent body of 21 NLUs comprising VCs of the NLUs.
This permanent body will sit at Bangalore. It will have an Executive Committee which will be comprised of the three oldest NLUs and three other NLUs.
A comprehensive mechanism will be put in place to conduct the CLAT. “
Advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Zoheb Hussain, appearing for the petitioner Prof Shamnad Basheer, however told the Court that the task should be entrusted to the National Testing Agency.
“After running the exam into the ground for ten years, they are now belatedly coming up with this solution. The matter should be disposed of by giving it to NTA.”
Justice Bobde queried as to why the NLU Consortium should not be given the task.
“The consortium is comprised of the same people who had been holding the exam till now.
Further, there is also this extortionist nature. They collected more than Rs. 4,000 from each candidate last year. They collected a total of Rs. 22 crore and made a profit of Rs. 20 crore”, Sankaranarayanan replied.
The Bench took this submission seriously.
“Is this true, Mr. Narasimha?”, asked Justice Bobde.
Narasimha, however, said that the money was not going into anybody’s pockets, but was only being utilised for the development of infrastructure and other facilities at the NLUs.
Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni, appearing for the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), then told the Court that it should be allowed to study these new proposals regarding the NLU Consortium or the NTA conducting the exam.
The Court agreed to the same. It, therefore, ordered the MHRD to convene a meeting of all the parties to the case along with the NTA and BCI. The MHRD is required to submit a report to the Supreme Court containing its recommendations on how CLAT should be conducted.
The matter will be listed after four weeks.
In October this year, in addition to both the BCI and NLU heads volunteering to man the conduct of CLAT, the NTA 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 Prof Basheer’s PIL, stating that,
“[the] NTA is willing to take up the responsibility for conducting the CLAT examination 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.