CLAT is India’s preeminent law entrance examination, whose results are considered for admission by 18 National Law Universities including some India’s most premier National Law Universities. This year’s CLAT saw over 59,000 candidates attempt the exam and while fewer than its counterparts for engineering and medicine has seen meteoric rise in participation since its inception and will likely see over a lakh students attempt it within the next five years. It is also a fairly rigorous competitive examination requiring devotion of atleast a year in its preparation to get to the top law schools by most candidates, the increasingly competitive nature of the examination also necessitates students investing considerable money in mocks, coaching programmes as well as books and other materials in addition to the Rs 4000 they spend on obtaining the admit card. A substantial number of candidates drop an year or more (or invest time between the current college and examination many times sacrificing their college results) with the expectation of giving their best and getting into one of India’s top NLUs. This also includes candidates who relinquish current seats in preeminent medical and engineering colleges or assured seats from their entrance tests to write CLAT.
CLAT 2018, as you might be aware, saw poor organisation (with exams being delayed by five to ten minutes in some centres to over an hour in others, biometric systems not working in some rooms) have been marred with server and interface glitches (unable to login to the test despite multiple attempts, answers not being received or marked, extreme server lags not in seconds but in minutes for some students, questions not being selected in one click or jumping by many questions), corrupt questions or encrypted questions (multiple students have reported of maths questions not being visible or being illegible while students have also complained of options not being visible in other questions), malfunctioning hardware (monitors, mouses, systems not turning on, many systems being bought in and installed at the last second with no prior integrity checks), bad infrastructure (toilets, drinking water, lighting, seating arrangements, no functional AC or fans in centres in Maharashtra, Gujarat etc), poor invigilation in some centres (with invigilators allowing students to discuss answers between each other, not responding to queries, not organising the demo test of the new interface that was put in place a week before exam, invigilators having their phones ring and then talk in the exam hall while exam was going on, have long conversations with one another) etc. These reports, which we received from CLAT aspirants who contacted us from around the country and whom we personally know to have put in wholehearted effort, is not alone as it has been reported across India – Lawoctopus CLAT; YKA CLAT 2018; Indian Express – Technical Glitches, Mismanagement, CLAT 2018; and is being reported in many regional dailies even now. Law Octopus has reported over 246 centres based on a Google form where multiple goof ups have happened – which can be found here Law Octopus – Google Form Data. There have also been multiple unverified videos on whatsapp and youtube allegedly showing mismanagement as well, with reports of police being called into some centres.
While CLAT has been in the news year after year for wrong answers in keys, technical glitches and other inefficiencies year after year – CLAT 2017; CLAT 2016; CLAT 2015; and CLAT 2014; this year’s has been one of the most widely reported incident of widespread mismanagement in recent history with not tens or hundreds but thousands of students complaining. The aggregate numbers personally reported to us by students from their individual centres alone put the number of affected candidates at ten percent as of now. In all likelihood this number will be higher. This itself is far higher than the 98% smoothness as has been reported by the concerned authorities Legally India – NUALS Statement that still leaves out 2% who could not give a perfect examination. Percentages are a good tool in obscuring hard numbers as 2% of 59000 would still leave about a 1000 people adversely affected, and as reports have shown 98% is a very big understatement. This is a far more appalling happening in light of the fact that each candidate has paid Rs 4000 leading to a corpus of more than Rs 23 Crores.
As everyone who has written a competitive exam with MCQs and negative marking knows, giving ten seconds extra to those who lost ten second and twenty seconds to those who lost twenty seconds, is not going to offset the loss of concentration and help get over the initial panic affecting results. This is also not the right way to organise a national entrance test. Some students have reported that they did not get the extra time in their centres while others have reported that the timer kept running despite glitches in the paper, while for yet others system hung midway with no recourse but the clock kept ticking. This can lead to a candidate attempting 150 questions instead of the 170 that could have been attempted while also causing many candidates to start and stop and then rush through questions, guessing answers where it could have been solved with certainty.
While we recognise that glitches and some inefficiencies are unfortunately a common feature of entrance examinations and requires long term solutions, an error margin of 2% even if taken to be true is a major step down from the controversy marred predecessors, and if as the media reports and numbers we have received indicates is at or about ten percent and higher then is a severe blow to the legitimacy of the whole exercise in having a common law entrance test. Such gross errors can have a severe and glaring impact, especially on students from economically and socially marginal backgrounds who might not be able to devote another year for preparation due to familial and social pressures, compelling them to take up another college or a job alongside the next attempt or drop it altogether. The legitimate grievances raised this time can impact willingness of future aspirants to take the risk of a CLAT examination and surely keep many people who attempted this year from attempting again. These factors will contribute only in making law schools less inclusive and accessible.
CLAT has grown into a levianthan and is only bound to keep growing. We believe that the current system where the prime responsibility is imposed on one among the law schools in the CLAT Committee has proven to be at the very least an inefficient mechanism or in worst case incapable of handling this exercise, at the cost of a year or more, thousands of Rupees in cost and destroyed hopes for several candidates. We believe that leaving the responsibility of organising an exam like CLAT to faculty and staff of universities in addition to their regular obligations lead to reduced oversight, lack of transparency and accountability as to the utilisation of fees, an established mechanism for raising grievances, and standard mechanism for calling tenders who are qualified and experienced in organising similar nation wide examinations.
Therefore we believe that it is the responsibility and the problem of not just the candidates who were directly affected by the glitches but also of those candidates who got lucky, those who have an interest in law or is planning to write CLAT in future, parents who have children pursuing CLAT. It is a concern also of current law students as well as alumni not merely because the life of many candidates wgo attempted the exam has been irreparably altered but also because at present there is almost no transparency in how the fees are utilised, every law school is likely to hold a CLAT that is likely to see bigger controversies as CLAT gets bigger. It is also a concern deserving greater public interest as law schools organising CLAT are public universities that have greater obligation to not just the candidates who pay fees but also to the public at large in accounting for the deficiencies and grievances in the course of the examination as well as the utilisation of funds.
It is essential that this concern is taken up by the larger public, especially by law students who have cleared CLAT and the wider public, for the candidates who sit for CLAT are mostly 17-19 year olds, are far fewer in number than most entrance exams to raise a strong enough voice by themselves and nor do they have the means of engaging with the CLAT mechanism from both within and outside as well as law students and members of the wider public can.
What you can do if you were a candidate for CLAT 2018 or a member of public interested in the future of CLAT examinations?
All of these approaches are equally important and numbering is only for the sake of convenience.
1) Raise the experience you and your fellow candidates had with CLAT on Twitter using the #CLAT2018 also tagging the HRD Minister, Media houses, MPs and MLAs in your constituency, as well as other representatives.
2) Contact media organisations known to you (or your parents) both in regional channels and in national channels as well as pages like Logical Indian, EIC etc. with your experience in the exam and also guide them to media reports and FB pages, Google forms collating personal experiences of others as well.
3) Contact seniors in various law schools as well as faculty known to you, share your experiences and have them take it up as well
4) Encourage your friends and family members outside of CLAT to join you both on twitter and elsewhere in raising your grievances
5) Mail your grievances to CLAT either through NUALS email id or through the helpline on CLAT page a designated mail id for engaging with grievances (when it is constituted)
6) Collate your experiences and grievances as well as those of others and narrate it in full on social media and in mail to political representatives, HRD ministry, CLAT, Media etc.
7) When in social media or in twitter coordinate with your friends so that your voice is not diffused.
9) Encourage others who have had an adverse experience with CLAT but has lost the will to take it up to cooperate with you as the only way to recourse is to organise yourself into one whole. People (including candidates) have sat quite for years in the hope things will repair itself and if you do not take a stand now for as long as it takes, far from resolving your grievances only guarantee is that of this being repeated next year.
10) File RTI applications/mails before the CLAT committee as well as the NLUS including NALSAR demanding to know of the expenditure for CLAT 2018, its breakup as well as for whom the tenders to organise different aspects of the exam were given and why the tenders were given to those parties or changed.
11) Write letters to the Hon’ble judges of the Supreme Court and high Court clearly indicating your your grievances and the issues you faced in the examination or file a writ petition before the High Court (as Supreme Court will move into vacation soon).
P.S: We understand that with Karnataka elections happening bringing this issue to public attention will be far more difficult but this will also mean that in three days time everyone will forget that this ever happened.
What can be your demands
1) Reexamination – while this is an unlikely option in light of the expenses and work involved on the part of CLAT authorities, this is a legitimate demand to raise and if the number of affected candidates are higher than we estimate then a strong demand as well.
2) Return of fees – if you had an unsatisfactory exam experience due to the fault of the CLAT organisers then you have a right to demand a refund of your fee which you had paid to take part in a fair examination.
3) Transparency in terms of how CLAT spent your fees including how the Rs 4000 as fee was calculated for candidate and also how much was spent on each aspect of CLAT 2018 – This is important in both resolving the allegation that the makers of the interface and organisers were changed in the last minute from the regular organisers to reduce costs and also in ensuring greater transparency in CLAT. This will be useful if you intent to seek a legal recourse as well.
4) Ensure that CLAT guarantee better organisation of examination in future – it is to be noted that no one has raised any grievances about the question paper itself but solely on the organisation of the examination for most editions of CLAT. This year’s lack of coordination indicates a clear lack of Organisational plan in dealing with unexpected contingencies or a minimum prescribed quality standard for the software and hardware used in conducting the examination or with regards to invigilators.
5) Ensure that CLAT puts in place independent in charges for different states in future examinations, ensure that there are members in the committee who can commit full time towards organising CLAT as well as a grievance redressal mechanism for students affected by CLAT 2018.
Wishing You All The Best and Promising To Stand With You