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Law schools lack infrastructure

Somu C S, August 23, 2016 23:00 IST
In May 2016, a total of 39,468 aspirants at various exam centres attempted the ninth edition of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) to compete for entrance to the 17 national law schools across the country.

While only the brightest youth make the grade, the CLAT remains riddled with problems. Primarily, the issue is the exam’s inconsistency over the past nine years in terms of the standard of questions. To that extent, the examination pattern has not yet stabilised. Almost every year, it is embroiled in controversies as evident from the several Public Interest Litigations admitted by various courts.

The 2016 CLAT proved to be too simplistic resulting in close cut-offs for the students. For instance, several students score similar marks, which give them the same rank that blurs the ability to accurately evaluate the aptitude of the candidates. The students, with the same ranks, would then be differentiated based whether they score higher in the component on legal reasoning rather than English.

Does this mean that legal reasoning assumes higher weightage over the English component? Considering the 17 national law universities have an annual intake of only 2,252 students per year at the graduate level, almost 37,000 candidates compete for these seats. Evidently, the CLAT objective is to eliminate around 35,000 candidates from entry to these national law universities. Therefore, what is the nature of the CLAT as an examination management system? The CLAT is a two-hour online examination which comprises five sections on: Objective- type questions on numerical ability, English comprehension, general knowledge and logical reasoning besides legal aptitude. It comprises 200 multiple choice questions to be completed in two hours.

Each question carries one mark and there is a negative marking of 0.25 marks for every incorrect answer. The CLAT has two different exams, one which screens aspirants for entry both into under-graduate and another for post-graduate courses. The challenge for student aspirants is to clear the exam for the under-graduate course rather than the post graduate course. The latest CLAT is the ninth edition and has come a long way since.

The exam was first conducted on May 11, 2008. Only 8,000 candidates wrote the CLAT in 2008, while there were 39,686 candidates for the 2015 exam. In 2016, the CLAT attracted 39,468 aspirants for 2,252 seats with 954 reserved seats. How successful has the CLAT been in its eight years? Apart from the national law universities, the CLAT scores are also used by other private law colleges across the country and public sector undertakings for admission and recruitment, respectively.

National brand

An expansion in the number of national law schools has resulted in a ‘national’ brand for these institutions which amounts to an exalted status. Those national law schools established initially in the 1990s after National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, like National Academy Legal Studies and Research, Hyderabad, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, National Law Institute University, Bhopal, National Law University Jodhpur, Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar and National Law University, Delhi, merit this status.

However, the subsequent set of national law schools instituted later are yet to prove their credentials. For instance, recently, students at National Law University, Assam demanded a fee refund as the facilities that were assured to them remained unfulfilled even after completion of the major portion of their five-year course. Naturally, these students agitated and eventually paramilitary forces were deployed to restrain them. This suggests how the ‘national’ brand was sold to 12 th class pass students as a dream which was replete with fancy salaries and a lavish lifestyle, results in five years of dead investment. Perhaps, CLAT aspirants ranked the recently opened Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai, seventh out of the 17 national law schools due to increased employability in the country’s commercial capital.

However, one might neglect quality education as the criterion to choose between law schools. Today, the major problem with the new national law schools is the lack of infrastructure and good teachers. This is evident from the outpourings of several on online law student platforms like Law Octopus.

(The writer is Head of the Department and Associate Dean, School of Law, Christ University, Bengaluru)

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