The Supreme Court on Monday refused to order a “re-test” of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2018 or stop the counselling process for admissions in 19 national prestigious law colleges across the country over complaints of technical glitches during the May 13 exam.
A vacation bench of justices U U Lalit and Deepak Gupta gave time till June 15 to the Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC), set up by the National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS) at Kochi to look into the complaints, to apply the normalisation formula to compensate for the time lost by the students during the exam.
The committee has suggested that students, who suffered time loss due to technical glitches, can be awarded compensatory marks after taking note of data of total correct and incorrect answers given by them during the online test.
Around 54,450 candidates had undertaken CLAT 2018 at 258 centres for admissions in 19 national law colleges.
NUALS, which conducted CLAT with the aid of private firm M/s Sify Technologies Ltd for admissions in undergraduate and postgraduate law programmes at premier law schools, had constituted a two-member panel to look into the complaints following the apex court’s direction.
During the arguments, some lawyers representing the petitioners, who have sought quashing of CLAT 2018 alleging inconsistencies and technical glitches during the May 13 online test, urged the bench to order re-test on the ground that around 5,700 complaints were received by the GRC about glitches.
“Sorry, we are not with you on this (re-test),” the bench said, adding, “Why should the students who have not taken any extra minute (in the exam) suffer in this uncertainty? What about those who have not given any complaints?”.
“We accept that something went wrong (during the exam). Now, the issue is how to compensate this,” the bench, which said it would pass a formal order in the matter on June 13, observed.
When some of the lawyers argued that the first round of ongoing counselling should be stopped till the time GRC comes out with a compensatory formula, the bench said, “We would not, at this juncture, hold up the counselling part. As far as the first counselling is concerned, let it go on. We are not going to disturb the admission process”.
At the outset, senior advocate V Giri, appearing for the GRC, referred to the report filed by the committee and said it has suggested that aspirants should be compensated with marks considering the time lost for those who had to re-login once or more during the online test.
He said that the GRC, headed by former Kerala High Court judge Justice M R Hariharan Nair and comprising Dr Santhosh Kumar G, Head of the Computer Science Department of Cochin University, have not suggested cancellation or re-test of CLAT 2018 considering the “magnitude of the requirements and the need to ensure smooth education of the successful candidates during the current academic year”.
At this juncture, the bench asked Giri as to how much time was needed for the GRC to consider all the grievances received by it.
Giri said the first round of counselling was going on and the GRC would take time till June 15 to address the complaints as they were also required to look into the audit report.
“By June 15, we will complete the exercise and by then the first counselling would also be over,” he said.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that the number of complaints received by the GRC showed that almost 10% of the total number of aspirants have grievances.
He claimed that in some cases, around 15-20 minutes time was lost during the two-hour online examination and some aspirants were also given extra time.
Hegde argued that Sify was a “first timer” in conducting the CLAT and the GRC’s report focuses only on loss of time and not on other aspects like allegation of cheating and grant of extra time to the aspirants.
The lawyers appearing for other petitioners also raised similar grievances after which the bench asked them to offer some solution to deal with the issue.
“Here, the purity of exam was not compromised. Here the issue is of mistake and genuine error which has occurred. The issue is what is the measure to compensate it,” the bench said.
At the fag end of hearing, one of the lawyers said that a re-test should be ordered for around 6,000 students who have filed complaints with the GRC.
“It would be difficult since 6,000 students would then be judged on a different parameter while the rest 54,000 students will be judged on a different parameter,” the bench said, adding, “Let this not be repeated in coming years”.
Earlier, on June 6, the court had refused to stay the counselling process and had said that any steps in the matter would be subject to further orders of the apex court.
Soon after the May 13 exam, several pleas were filed in six different high courts across the country and also in the apex court seeking quashing of CLAT alleging inconsistencies and technical glitches during the online test.