Rakesh Kumar Agarwalla & Anr. v. National Law School Of India University, Bengaluru And Ors.
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No. 1030 OF 2020 decided on September 21, 2020
Bench: Ashok Bhusan, M.R. Shah, R. Subhash Reddy JJ.
The petitioners, Prof Venkata Rao (former NLSIU Vice-Chancellor) with an aspirant’s parent, challenged the move of NLSIU’s to conduct a separate entrance exam this year owing to the delayed conduct of CLAT 2020. The petitioners urged the Supreme Court to quash the notification announcing the conduct of NLAT for NLSIU admissions this year. The petitioners filed a rejoinder before the Court, asserting that NLSIU miserably failed in conducting the NLAT and has made a large number of candidates suffer. The petitioner also contended that the exam and its procedure lack transparency and cannot be termed “a success” by the widest stretch of imagination. The petitioner thus filed the writ in Supreme Court praying for quashing the conduct of NLAT.
Questions of Law:
The Supreme Court considered the following issues:
(1) Whether the petitioners have locus to file the writ petition?
(2) Whether the admission notification could have been issued only after recommendations to that effect by the Academic Council, which is the statutory authority under the Act, 1986 for admission of the students to the five year integrated B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) Programme 2020- 2021?
(3) Whether NLSIU being founder member of Consortium of National Law Universities, a registered society, is bound by its Bye-Laws and was obliged to admit the students for integrated B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) Programme through CLAT 2020?
(4) Whether online home proctored examination as proposed by notification lacks transparency, was against the very concept of fair examination and violative of the rights of the students under Article 14 of the Constitution?
(5) Whether NLAT held on 12.09.2020 with retest on 14.09.2020 was marred by malpractices and deserves to be set aside?
With regards to issue (1), the court noted that the petitioner no.1 is a valid party to file the writ petition. The court also noted that Prof. Venkata Rao has worked as Vice-chancellor of NLSIU and was also member of Consortium and thus he is fully competent to espouse the cause of education by means of the writ petition. Thus, the court declared that the issues raised have to be decided on merits and rejected the objection with maintainability.
With regards to issue (2), the court after analyzing various provisions of law observed that NLSIU was required by the Statute to obtain recommendation of Academic Council before proceeding to hold NLAT by issuing admission notification. The admission notification issued by NLSIU could not have been issued without obtaining the recommendation by the Academic Council. In light of the above, the court held that the notification was not in accordance with the provisions of Act, 1986 and is unsustainable.
With regards to issue (3), the court observed that even though obligations on members of Consortium under the Bye-Laws are not statutory obligations but those obligations are binding on the members. Thus, NLSIU, being members of the Consortium ought not to have proceeded with holding a separate test “NLAT”.
With regards to issue (4), the court held that home based online examination as proposed by the NLSIU for NLAT could not be held to be a test which was able to maintain transparency and integrity of the examination. The short notice and technological requirements insisted by the University deprived a large number of students to participate in the test violating their rights under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
With regards to issue (5), the court firstly mentioned that, “We need not express any opinion in the proceeding with respect to malpractice under Article 32 with regard to the aspect of malpractices in the test conducted on 12.09.2020 and 14.09.2020 which is essentially a matter of scrutiny of facts and evidence.” Thus the court held that the notification of admission was not in accordance with law and deserves to be set aside.
Thus, the court quashed the conduct of NLAT and ordered NLSIU to conduct admissions to its courses this year through the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT).