The Supreme Court permitted a group of Common Law Admission Test (CLAT 2020) aspirants to make representations regarding issues with this year's exam before the grievance redressal committee headed by a retired Chief Justice of India.
Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan argued that over 40,000 objections concerning technical glitches and issues regarding incorrect answers to questions were raised by students who wrote the CLAT 2020 exam on September 28. He argued, "In a lot of questions, the wrong model answers were given. Out of 40,000 objections, 20,000 were on questions and answers. I am on the other 20,000. The cut-off in this exam is not even 0, but -4. This is not only in this exam but in the history of any exam. This list has students who have got marks of -4. These students have been called for counseling."
The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah sought to know how students with minus marks can be called for counseling. In response, Senior Advocate PS Narasimha, appearing for the Consortium of NLUs, stated that the list read out was of the SC/ST students and that students being called for counseling did not mean they were admitted. He said, "The retired Chief Justice (head of the grievance redressal committee) looks into these objections. The list readout is only for the SC/ST candidates and they have been only called for the interview and the calling makes no difference. What needs to be seen is it is alleged that the number of questions is lengthy. But the length has reduced from the last test. So far as software glitches are concerned, this is an extraordinary exam as even a movement of the mouse by the student is recorded."Narasimha then said that two questions - 146 and 150 - were dropped as per the committee's recommendation. He added, "Out of 2600 seats, 1800 seats are already filled. For rest, counseling is on. The exam has been done excellently well and all Vice-Chancellors have participated in this. One question was defamation is a crime or not. The objection was that the answer is not as per what Google says." After hearing the parties, the Bench gave liberty to the petitioners to approach the grievance redressal committee with any issues they have with the exam within two days. A decision on these representations is to be taken at the earliest, the Bench said. It also observed that it has "full faith" that the committee will look into the grievances. However, the Bench clarified that it would not issue any interim orders stalling the counseling process for now. The petition, filed by a bunch of CLAT 2020 aspirants, highlights grievances faced by many students due to alleged technical glitches during the exam held on September 28. The petitioners have urged the Apex Court to direct the CLAT Consortium to set up a high-powered committee to look into the complaints lodged and grievances raised by the students. Apart from a prayer for the conduct of a fresh round of CLAT 2020, the petitioners also seek a direction for the Consortium to ensure that technical difficulties do not recur in the re-exam. This year, after multiple rounds of postponement due to COVID-19 contingencies, CLAT was finally held on September 28 as an online, center-based exam. In this exam, the petitioners claim that there were instances of answers mismatching. The aspirants claimed that they were adversely affected and contend that the exam stands vitiated. The results declared by the Consortium are, therefore, "wrong, erroneous, and incorrect" and, as such, "biased", the plea claims. The petition lists various issues faced by the aspirants in the online entrance exam: The candidates have chosen/selected/ticked correct answers; however, it is reflecting in a result that us wrong and/or different options have been chosen/selected/ticked. The result is displaying and calculating marks in those questions, which were not even attempted by the candidates. Candidates have chosen/selected/ticked different options; however, in the results, different answers are shown as chosen/selected/ticked.10 questions are either wrong themselves, or their answers which are uploaded on the website are wrong. Moreover, an objection was also raised against the length of the exam, which is stated to have had about 18,600 words to be read in 120 minutes. The petitioners add that this posed a disadvantage to students from non-English medium backgrounds as well. "It is unfortunate that the CLAT Consortium has designed the question paper for, CLAT 2020 in a way that ensures the systematic exclusion of students hailing from non-English speaking backgrounds", the petitioners contend. The conduct of exams must be done in an unblemished way, the petitioners aver, citing the precedents laid down by the Supreme Court.