I am one of those tens of thousands of students who have appeared for your examination.
When seven premier national law universities came together in 2008 to conduct you — the first ever Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admissions to a five-year integrated BA LLB course — it came as a sigh of relief to all law aspirants, who earlier had to travel to different cities to write separate entrance examinations for various universities. Ever since you have been conducted by a different law school every year.
The second Sunday of May is the D-day of every law aspirant’s life. Having studied a year’s worth of current affairs, perfected legal concepts, practiced reasoning, along with English and math, we anxiously step into the exam hall to face the most decisive two hours of our life. And what awaits us? A sham of an examination that callously tosses our dreams down the drain.
There has not been a single CLAT till date which has been free from institutional botch-ups.
It all started in 2009. You had to be rescheduled because your question paper was leaked. Then in 2011, your question booklet came in with few questions which had answers underlined, much to our disappointment. In 2012, you made a mockery of the prescribed syllabus by seriously deviating from the official format. You also produce an erroneous rank list, withdrew and republished it and consequently saw a number of writ petitions in Court.
2013 was the only year in which you came surprisingly close to being an error-free experience. Then again in 2014, the standard of questions went down and you messed up things colossally by putting out the model answer sheet with incorrect answers. In 2015, which is notoriously known as the worst CLAT experience ever. Math questions were plagiarised from old CAT papers, GK copy-pasted from a popular website, and the poorly conducted online exam came in with a jaw-dropping 40 erroneous questions, none of which, the expert committee appointed by the organizing university acknowledged. Also, the results were leaked to a media forum before you could announce them.
In spite of all these controversies, our dreams and aspirations rested on you, and we went ahead to write CLAT 2017. But what lay in store for us? Another ridiculously substandard question paper replete with typos, questions with no correct answers, or worse, multiple correct answers, and a host of ambiguous questions. Problems that could have been avoided by proof-reading the paper before posting it.
Having scored decent marks in most of the mock tests, I went in for the exam with confidence, but on seeing your question paper, and my subsequent score, I was left heartbroken and reduced to tears. A bunch of people did score well, but then it’s a competitive exam, some people always do better than the others. And that does not equate to justice.
Those people who, despite the 20-odd errors, managed to score well might say, “if it was bad, it was bad for all.” But tell me CLAT, with questions having multiple correct answers and only one marked right, am I not at a disadvantage if my correct answer was not the one you recognised? What about those who could have answered correctly had the ambiguous questions been properly framed? What about all those who, in the process of finding answers to your answerless questions, lost out on precious time they could have utilised elsewhere?
There are also those who find that the options saved by them have not been recorded or in some cases even changed. Technical glitches are not uncommon, but how does one prove that?
Since there are usually 100s of students in a gap of every 1-2 marks, the loss of even a quarter of a mark could seal our fates differently.
For the whopping sum of ₹4,000 you charge us for one exam, the least you owe us is hiring professionals who can frame a proper, error-free set of questions. So the question that arises here is whether there’s a solution to all of this? Well, there are two major things that could drastically reduce the scope for such lapses.
Firstly, a permanent CLAT committee could be appointed, as was suggested after the 2015 fiasco. When a new university with little or no experience of conducting entrance exams conducts CLAT, they get to make their set of mistakes, unfortunately, at the expense of students. While the Bar Council of India (BCI) did offer to shoulder the responsibility of conducting the exam two years ago, nothing has come of it.
Secondly, instead of declaring scores, ranks, and allotment lists in installments, the score and answer keys could be released immediately at the centre itself, after the exam concludes. This is possible in an online examination and would be effective in putting to rest doubts regarding errors in recording answers. Technical glitches, if found in the system, could be looked into then and there. Following that, a reasonable number of days should be provided to file objections. A final common merit list should be released incorporating the requisite corrections.
While we sit back and pray for these changes, the convener of CLAT 2017 has appointed an expert committee to look into the matter and promised that ‘justice will prevail.’ I wonder where he was though when such injustice was being meted against half a million students. Will this committee go against the precedent set by the expert committee in 2015 and account for all its errors? More importantly, will it be able to?
Accounting for all the wrong questions, the lost time, the psychological distress caused to students and the resulting botch-up in attempting the rest of the paper? A re-examination seems like the only fair solution, but ironically, justice is not the forte of these CLAT-organising ‘law’ schools.
Many of us had been preparing for one, two or even more number of years for this day. To an 18-year-old student whose life and career depends on you, 20 wrong questions can be life-altering. You had one job, CLAT, and you failed. And in the process, you failed the students and the entire education system of this country.
A student whose dreams you shattered