Law Schools Flout Admission Norms, Alleges Petitioner
New Delhi: In the pending CLAT matter in the Supreme Court, legal scholar Prof. Shamnad Basheer has alleged that law colleges that participated in the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) this year conducted the admission process in blatant contravention of the clear provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995.
In the PIL, he sought immediate intervention of the court against the opaque and inefficient implementation of the CLAT held every year for the purpose of admissions to graduate and post-graduate programmes in the discipline of law offered at premier National Law Universities (NLUs) in the country.
Stating that almost all CLAT exams have been characterised by egregious lapses over the years, the petitioner sought the setting up of a “robust, structured and institutionalized mechanism for conducting CLAT to avoid uncertainties and reduce the scope for errors and lapses”.
This year, CLAT was conducted by Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Punjab. The university has filed the affidavit in this case, stating that CLAT was conducted properly this year and with no errors and problems. In the additional affidavit, Prof. Shamnad Basheer alleged that most NLUs have not complied with the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, while making admissions.
Under Section 39 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, all government educational institutions and other educational institutions receiving aid from the government are mandated to reserve at least 3 per cent of the seats for persons with disabilities.
The CLAT website provides a break-up of seats for each NLU (Annexure I) and from the same the following facts with respect to the seats for PWD are evident:
No seats have been horizontally reserved for PWD by NUSRL, Ranchi and MNLU, Mumbai;
Less than 3 per cent of the seats at DSNLU, Vishakhapatnam and HNLU, Raipur have been horizontally reserved for PWD;
NALSAR, Hyderabad, NLIU, Bhopal, WBNUJS, Kolkata, GNLU, Gandhinagar, RGNUL, Punjab while calculating the seats to be horizontally reserved for PWD have rounded down decimal figures to the nearest lowest integer.
To illustrate, 3 per cent of the total seats at WBNUJS equal 3.81 seats; however, WBNUJS has rounded down the decimal and horizontally reserved only 3 seats for PWD instead of 4. While computing the 3 per cent of seats for persons with disabilities, some colleges have not based their calculations on the total intake of seats (i.e., all-India category, state category and special category seats) but only on the All-India category and state category seats.
According to the petitioner, calculating the mandatory 3 per cent reservation by excluding special category seats violates Section 39 of the PWD Act. It is also alleged in the affidavit that there was no transparency in the allotment of seats this year. The CLAT 2016 Committee did not release a consolidated rank list. Instead, a university-wise indicative list based on merit-cum-preference of candidates was published.
As a result, a candidate allotted to a particular NLU would not be aware of his/her chances of being upgraded to a higher NLU in subsequent allotment lists. Moreover, without a consolidated rank list, there was no method of verifying the allotment of seats under various horizontal (PWD, women) and vertical (general, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, etc.) categories. This made the process of identifying errors in allotment difficult. It is also alleged that there were many errors in the answer key. Upon submission of errors, the CLAT authorities put up a notification acknowledging only two errors. However, there were other errors in the paper that were not addressed by the CLAT authorities.
Another serious allegation is regarding the allotment of NRI seats. The eligibility condition prescribed by most universities state that the candidate need only be an “NRI-sponsored” candidate. In this way, almost any rich privileged student in India with some far-flung nexus to an NRI is able to gain special unequal treatment and gain admission, without scoring well enough in the CLAT to merit admission unlike other candidates.
According to the petitioner, the current NRI quota followed by a number of NLUs goes against the Supreme Court judgment in Inamdar case which clearly held that an NRI candidate must be an ‘NRI’ candidate i.e., the direct ward of an NRI parent and not an NRI-sponsored candidate, where the candidate’s only nexus with the alleged NRI is that the NRI pays the fees from his account. In the last posting of the case, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the Bar Council of India, for not filing their response in the Case.