The 2018 national law entrance exam has been hit by controversy following complaints of glitches and mismanagement, and petitions have been filed in various HCs. Why are the candidates angry?

What is CLAT?
The Common Law Admission Test or CLAT is the biggest and most important of all law entrance examinations in India. Organised for the first time in 2008, it is taken by more than 40,000 candidates every year after their Class XII exam. The test is conducted by India’s 19 National Law Universities by rotation, in the order of their dates of establishment. Successful students are enrolled in these participating schools; CLAT scores are also accepted by 43 other institutions where law in taught.

Candidates get 120 minutes to answer 200 questions. The exam is conducted online and covers a wide range of topics including general knowledge and current affairs, numerical ability, legal aptitude, and logical reasoning.

This year, the test was held on May 13, from 3 pm to 5 pm. The organising university was the National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Kochi.

So, what is the controversy about?
A day after the exam, social media was flooded with complaints from candidates about technical glitches and irregularities. Many have since moved various High Courts alleging misconduct and negligence on the part of NUALS, and that this has caused “irreparable loss to the(ir) career”. The petitioners have sought directions from the courts for a re-examination, or the granting of additional marks to compensate for the time lost as a result of the glitches. The ABVP, which moved the Delhi HC, has asked for the exam to be conducted by the central government or UPSC or CBSE or any other autonomous organisation. The court issued a notice to the Centre on the plea.

According to the petitioners, the online exam process “suffers from arbitrariness, lack of fairness, lack of transparency, lack of authenticity, discrimination between similarly placed students”. They lost “precious time” due to the glitches, the petitioners have argued, and said the tense situation “adversely affected their state of mind” and reduced their efficiency. They have also sought action against the agency that was engaged to provide the technology for the online exam.

What exactly were these glitches?
The complaints mention several but broadly, they all deal with mismanagement and computers not functioning properly.

A petition in the Rajasthan High Court, for example, said that the “computers provided to the candidates were at all not functioning in a proper manner”, and “almost every petitioner faced the problem of computer hanging”. They alleged that non-functional air conditioners failed to “maintain the temperature for the proper functioning of the server system”.

One of the students, who appeared at the centre in KMMP School, Dangiyawas, Jodhpur, stated in the petition: “One candidate was first provided a computer system but [it] was completely in disorder. On making complaint, she was provided another seat having a different system. But the provided computer system hereto was not functioning properly. On request, she was provided third computer system, which too was faulty, and in this way, fourth and fifth computer systems were provided to her with loss of 38 minutes.”

Another petitioner alleged that the “first question did not appear on the screen throughout the exam [and] as such remained unattempted”.

A candidate who appeared at the SLBS Engineering College, Dangiyawas, Jodhpur centre, alleged that the computer provided to him “demanded password every 20-25 seconds”, and even after informing the invigilator, no action was taken. He added that the “mouse… was also not functioning properly and was changed twice and due to this nearly 21 questions could not be attempted despite knowing the correct answers”.

In a petition before Madhya Pradesh High Court, a candidate who appeared in the Trinity Institute of Technology and Research, Bhopal, has alleged that the questions did not appear on the screen “for the first 8-10 minutes, but the timer fixed on the computer screen kept running”. She added that the invigilator asked her to “log out and log in to rectify the technical glitch”. Although this time the questions appeared, the timer started from the time when the computer had been logged off. The petitioner alleged that due to the glitch she could not attempt at least 17 questions.

Are there any allegations other than those about technical glitches?
The petition in the Rajasthan HC, which has been filed by seven candidates, states that the “attendance sheet was provided in mid-time of the examination and in some centres it was provided at the end”. It adds that candidates who left the assigned rooms “were again called for the purpose of attendance sheet”. The petitioners said that “even if irregularities were not committed on this count yet providing the attendance sheet in time diverted the attention of the candidates and spoiled 4-5 minutes…”

There are also complaints about some students being granted extra time to complete the test on a selective basis. There are allegations that at some centres, the test was held without invigilators. As a consequence, outsiders including journalists, allegedly entered the exam hall. There are also complaints of students cheating during the test.

(Adapted from The Indian Express)