The Bar Council of India (BCI) has submitted an affidavit to the Delhi High Court, expressing its willingness to oversee the administration of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT).
The BCI, the paramount governing body for legal professionals in India, has made this proposal in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Sudhanshu Pathak, a law student. Pathak’s PIL advocates for conducting CLAT 2024 not only in English but also in the various regional languages listed in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution. The argument put forth in the PIL is that conducting CLAT exclusively in English creates discrimination and disadvantages students whose primary educational background lies in regional languages.
Furthermore, the BCI has thrown its weight behind the PIL, contending that conducting CLAT in regional languages would open up opportunities for a wider segment of the population to pursue a legal career. The BCI has also questioned the legitimacy and authority of the Consortium of National Law Universities (NLUs), the current body responsible for the rotational administration of CLAT. According to the BCI, all NLUs were established through legislation, and it, as the “sole relevant statutory authority in the realm of legal education,” has no role or oversight in CLAT. The BCI asserts that this arrangement among the NLUs lacks statutory recognition and contradicts the provisions of the Advocates Act of 1961, as reported by legal news portals such as LiveLaw and BarandBench.
To address this situation, the BCI has suggested that it be allowed to establish a committee of experts through its Legal Education Committee to manage CLAT. This committee would include sitting and former judges, renowned legal educationists, and eminent jurists. The BCI emphasizes its successful experience in conducting the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) in 23 languages, ensuring fairness and transparency. The BCI’s objective is to ensure that no deserving candidate is excluded from CLAT due to a lack of proficiency in the English language.
On the opposing side, the Consortium of NLUs has raised objections to the PIL, asserting that while AIBE can be readily translated and administered in multiple languages, CLAT presents more complex challenges in terms of translation. The Consortium argues that CLAT is a highly competitive examination that assesses candidates’ aptitude and reasoning abilities, and translating such questions into different languages would pose difficulties related to accuracy, equivalence, and fairness. Additionally, the Consortium contends that conducting CLAT in multiple languages would increase the examination’s cost and complexity, as most law courses are taught in English.
The case is scheduled for a hearing on October 6 before a division bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad. The official notification for CLAT 2024 has set the examination date for December 3.