The second week of May every year is known to send jitters down the spine of every National Law School aspirant. May 13, 2018, was no exception.
Marred by technical glitches in around 243 out of 260 centres, the 2018 version of CLAT had a massive impact on the psyche of around 60,000 students. Irrespective of whether a re-test is conducted or not, the 2018 test is bound to be remembered as a massive disappointment.
At a time when ‘Digital India’ is the new norm, such utter carelessness is least expected from one of the most highly rated entrance examinations. Students from all over the country give the exam to get admission into a college of their dreams. Not even in their wildest dreams could the students have imagined what they faced on May 13. Before venturing into what transpired on that fateful day, let us first understand what CLAT is.
The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is an exam conducted for those students who wish to take up law as a career. In 1986, with the efforts of legal luminaries like Mr NR Madhav Menon, India witnessed the establishment of a Law School (Bangalore) which integrated BA and LLB into a 5-year course. This was followed by the opening of many new colleges for this integrated course. Earlier, every law college conducted their own examination for admission into their college. But in 2008, all the NLUs took a decision to organise a common exam for every law college and pave the way for an umbrella examination for students. A decision was taken that each year, one college will organise this exam on a rotational basis. The first CLAT was organised by NLS, Bangalore in 2008.
Earlier, every law school used to give the contract of organising this exam to TCS. But this time, NUALS, Kochi (the organising college) took a different turn and partnered with Si-fy for organizing CLAT 2018. Despite having a terrible track record of organising exams, NUALS, Kochi gave the contract to Si-fy. It’s extremely difficult to understand as to why the Implementation Committee which consisted of Vice Chancellors of all the NLUs awarded the contract to them. Thus started the biggest scam of 2018 that would affect 60,000 lives and a lot more.
Their biggest achievement was SSC CGL 2018 question paper leak which was followed by a CBI enquiry on them. Even then, The CLAT Implementation Committee didn’t inquire about the integrity of Si-fy Technologies. “SSC Chairman said that various malpractices have occurred during examinations conducted by Si-fy Technologies as the vendor, and now CBI enquiry into one such exam of CGLE tier 2 is also afoot, but examinations are continuing to be conducted by Si-fy, which is supposedly itself under CBI scanner.”
CLAT 2018 was held on May 13, 2018, between 3 pm to 5 pm. Students had to put up with technical glitches, the indifferent attitude of the invigilators, non-functional computer systems, etc. As a result, many students lost precious 10-30 minutes in a 120-minute exam. Let’s not forget that this is a National Level Exam which 60,000 students across the country take part in to get admission into India’s premier law schools. Every serious aspirant strategises for each and every second and a loss of even a minute has an effect on the law school they get admitted to. This is extremely deplorable, especially at a time when the Supreme Court has very recently advocated for according a status of “national importance” to all law schools across the country. Nothing can be more ironic. It is a gross violation of Article 14 which advocates the fundamental right to equality.
Since its inception, the organising body of CLAT has drawn a lot of flak for not organising this exam in an efficient manner. For example, in 2015, at least 6 answers were almost certainly wrong, but an expert committee eventually concluded that all the questions were correct, after a high court ordered the CLAT convener to look at 15 questionable questions. Also, many of the questions were copied from previous years’ CAT examinations.
In 2016, three cancellations were made to the answer key which affected the overall performance of many students. 2017 too was rough with a lot of criticism as there were many unsolvable questions and the answer key showed many wrong answers. This has been a common trend for CLAT across years and its 2018 version too did not fail to disappoint. The only difference is that unlike previous years, this year’s CLAT had an entirely different problem. It was marred by technical glitches that ate away the time allotted to students and possibly put the future of many students at risk.
Multiple writ petitions have already been filed in the various High Courts. The first wave started when some students from Jodhpur filed a case in Rajasthan High Court. The judge, while issuing a notice for Kochi, remarked: “Your case seems strong.” The next hearing for them is on May 29.
Similarly, another writ petition was filed at Punjab and Haryana High Court demanding justice and equality for students whose examination was marred by technical glitches. The greatest development so far was done in the case of ABVP and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors.
The first hearing was on May 22 which delineated the broad complications associated with the mismanagement by the organising university. Justice Rekha Palki, while taking the jibe at their inefficiency for conducting the national level exam, issued the notice to NUALS, Kochi demanding their response on this matter. She also included a Dasti System (in case the results are declared before the above date, the same shall be subject to the decision of the Delhi High Court).
One week has been given to NUALS, Kochi in case it wants to file a counter affidavit. The next date of hearing is on May 30. In fact, citing urgency and the gravity of the matter, the vocational benches of the Honourable Supreme Court has agreed for the hearing.
Now, when this exam has been under scrutiny, students who faced the shortage of time due to the incompetency of the organising body are demanding justice and are knocking at the doors of the courts so that they can get the equality and justice promised to them by our Constitution.