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The Consortium, in its affidavit, urges the Supreme Court to allow the writ petition filed challenging NLSIU's decision to admit students on the basis of NLAT in lieu of CLAT scores this year.
An affidavit has been filed on behalf of the Consortium of National Law Universities (NLUs) by its Secretary and NALSAR Vice-Chancellor, Professor Faizan Mustafa, supporting the challenge made to NLSIU's decision to conduct its own law entrance test this year i.e. the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT).
The decision of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru to conduct its own admission test this year in the wake of the postponement of the Common Law Entrance Test (CLAT) to Septemebr 28 triggered shockwaves within the Consortium as well.
Two petitions have since been filed challenging NLSIU's decision, which it announced on September 3. One petition, moved by five students in the Jharkhand High Court, is likely to be heard tomorrow.
Another petition filed in the Supreme Court by an aggrieved parent, along with a former NLSIU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Venkata Rao, has now found support from the NLU Consortium.
In its affidavit, the NLU Consortium has made the following submissions while disputing NLSIU's right to conduct the NLAT:
There is no provision in the MoU or the Consortium bylaws which permits a member of the Consortium to conduct its own admission test. It is further stated that NLSIU's decision to conduct its own test violates Clause 15.3.3. of the Consortium's bylaws. NLISU was also a member of the Consortium. However, the University's Vice-Chancellor was removed from the post of Consortium Treasurer-Secretary after news broke of NLSIU's decision to not consider CLAT scores for admissions this year;
CLAT was finally postponed to September 28 given the complete lockdown imposed in West Bengal on September 7. The Consortium had postponed the examinations in the interest of the students’ health and in light of the pandemic situation. There will not be any further postponement of the CLAT as the latest unlock guidelines do not permit States to announce its own lockdowns hereon;
NLSIU had kept the Consortium in the dark about its decision to hold a separate entrance exam, i.e. the NLAT. The Consortium says that it was not informed about executive council meetings and faculty meetings held by NLSIU in this regard;
Being a member of the Consortium, more so its Secretary and Treasured, it was expected that the Vice-Chancellor of the NLSIU, would inform the Executive Committee of the Consortium about the decision to conduct a separate law admission test;
Inspite of participating in the Consortium meetings, NLSIU arbitrarily and hastily issued the notification to conduct NLAT without any notice. An emergency meeting was held by the Consortium to urge NLSIU to reconsider this decision to no avail;
NLSIU has in effect jeopardised the careers and lives of thousands of students and aspirants across the country;
NLSIU has gone against the Memorandum of Association and bylaws of the consortium which states that the Consortium will be the sole entity which conducts the law admission test. i.e. CLAT;
NLSIU's decision has gone against the core values of the Consortium and policies and decisions of the governing body and undermined the very basis of legal education in the country;
No member of the consortium has the right to conduct its own independent test. NLSIU has not withdrawn from the Consortium yet is going ahead with its own separate admission test, the affidavit notes.
It is also contended that NLSIU's decision was taken in contravention of the University's parent statute, i.e. the National Law School of India University Act, 1986, in that the decision was taken without any indication that the Academic Council's concurrence was obtained for the move. It is noted that NLSIU's Executive Council is not empowered to amend the mode of student admissions without the prior concurrence of the Academic Council.
The technical requirements for the NLAT create issues of accessibility and discrimination.
The Consortium adds that in order to avoid a conflict of interest and to ensure the smooth conduct of CLAT, the NLSIU Vice-Chancellor was divested of the Treasurer-Secretary post and the Secretariat of the Consortium was shifted to NALSAR.
The purpose stated for the decision to conduct the NLAT i.e. to avoid a "zero year" is baseless, irrational and arbitrary. While ordinarily, the UGC requires Universities to have 180 working days, this number cannot be insisted upon this year since Universities are not permitted to function physically as per lockdown guidelines. The working days requirement can easily be brought down to 120 days or even less.
While it is true that NLSIU has a trimester system, the normal rule of 70 working days per trimester cannot be insisted upon this year, the Consortium’s affidavit states. In view of the pandemic-induced lockdown, it is further stated that the trimester period can easily be reduced to 8 weeks. Even if classes resume from October 15, there is no threat of this year being a zero year, it is contended. One or two courses for the semester may also be shifted to subsequent semesters, it is added.
In view of these submissions, the Consortium has urged the Supreme Court to allow the writ petition moved to challenge the conduct of NLAT by NLSIU in lieu of CLAT.
The NLAT is slated to be held on September 12.