New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the consortium of National Law Universities (NLU) that why can’t the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) be conducted in regional languages like the entrance examinations for medical and engineering courses.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad granted four weeks’ time to the NLU to file its response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking THE Common Law Admission Test for 2024 (CLAT 2024) be held in all regional languages listed in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.
“If medical education can be taught in Hindi, if the entrance examination for MBBS can be held in Hindi, JEE can be held in Hindi, what is this you are talking about,” the bench said.
“The idea is definitely to make it more inclusive. The only concern is that we have to have necessary linguistic experts with legal knowledge,” the counsel for the consortium said.
The PIL by Delhi University law student Sudhanshu Pathak contended that CLAT (UG) examination “discriminates” and fails to provide a “level playing field” to the students whose educational backgrounds are rooted in regional languages.
Appearing for Pathak, senior advocate Jayant Mehta said that consortium’s reply at an early date is necessary or else the matter will become infructuous as the examination is scheduled by the end of this year.
The consortium will say it doesn’t have time to translate the English paper into other regional languages in case the hearing is not listed on an early date, counsel said.
“The concern of senior advocate Jayant Mehta is a genuine concern and therefore, respondent number 1 (Consortium of National Law Universities) is granted four weeks time to file reply positively,” the court said, posting the matter for hearing next on July 7.
Earlier, the high court had issued notice to the consortium and the Bar Council of India (BCI).
CLAT is currently only offered in English. According to the petition, this causes gross injustice to students who study in languages other than English.
“CLAT discriminates against and fails to provide a level playing field to the students belonging to educational backgrounds rooted in regional languages. In a hyper-competitive paper, they are linguistically disempowered as they have to surpass the additional hurdle of learning and mastering a new language,” the plea stated.
“Naturally, aspirants belonging to English medium schools have an advantage over their peers belonging to schools operating in Hindi or other vernacular languages. The underprivileged and disempowered aspirants can never view an exam solely based in English as ‘obvious’ unlike their privileged, English-speaking competitors.”
A survey by the Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA) Trust was highlighted in the plea.
According to the survey, more than 95 per cent of questioned students enrolled at National Law Universities (NLUs) attended secondary and higher education institutions where English was the primary language of teaching.
The petition said that this was not unexpected given that CLAT is an entrance exam that requires a high level of English proficiency, which is a signal of privilege, and thus gives students from an English-medium background an inherent advantage.
“This figure has been more or less consistent with the results of the 2013-14 survey wherein 96.77 per cent of the surveyed students came from English medium backgrounds, indicating that proficiency in the English language continues to be a major factor for gaining admission to a top NLU in the country,” the petitioner said.
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