CLAT faces criticism after CJI DY Chandrachud remarks

Envisioned as ‘Harvards of East’, National Law Universities were called out by the CJI for laying insufficient emphasis on ‘value-based education’ while granting admission to legal aspirants.

Aditi AlurkarUpdated: Thursday, December 08, 2022, 01:24 PM IST
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Justice DY Chandrachud | PTI

Mumbai: A week after the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud asserted that Common Law Admission Test, the sole deciding factor for law school admissions, is not evaluating college entrants for their ‘ethos’, members from the legal fraternity came to state how CJI's views were idealistic but couldn't be applied to the exam catering to 77, 000 students

Envisioned as ‘Harvards of East’, National Law Universities were called out by the CJI for laying insufficient emphasis on ‘value-based education’ while granting admission to legal aspirants.

These shortcomings found at the very grassroots level raise the question of whether run-of-the-mill testing can be considered sufficient to open law school doors for students.

“CLAT is a standardized test, it inevitably judges students on their skills. The glaring problem with the exam is that the questions being asked are very coachable, which enables those who can afford coaching to crack the exam compared to others,” said Sidharth Chauhan, Assistant Professor at the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research.

The phenomenon of turning aptitude into learned behavior helps many circumvent the process of assessment, to begin with, making value-based testing a far-reaching dream for a profession that demands servitude.

“A lawyer is an officer of the court who serves as the bridge between Justice and Society. It is indeed critical for students who aspire to become lawyers to maintain a high threshold of ethics and values, something which the existing CLAT examination cannot measure,” said Professor Kishu Daswani from Government Law College, Mumbai.

“A seventeen-year-old CLAT examinee is probably too young to have developed a measurable ethos of his own. The responsibility of inculcating this much-needed sense of morality must necessarily fall on the law schools” he added.

Conducted once a year, CLAT ranks a great many students on the basis of their scores and is not followed by interviews or any other screening processes. Every year NLUs witness students who have dropped out for two or more years in a row, with their one-track goal of preparing for CLAT and getting into their desired colleges, which includes NLS Bangalore and NALSAR, Hyderabad, leading many to believe that this style of testing might bring more harm than good.

“The current model of selection only focuses on the intelligence quotient and doesn’t accommodate the emotional quotient. Students face a plethora of challenges while prepping for the exam and develop social issues such as isolation and anxiety, which harm them immensely later in life,” said Supreme Court lawyer Advocate Ashok Agarwal.

“In this formative stage, it is important to learn how to foster and develop interpersonal relationships. These entrance tests are mad races, and have a great psycho-social impact on the students,” he added.

Nearly 77 thousand students appear for sections like English Language, Current Affairs, Legal Reasoning, and Quantitative Techniques to crack this entrance. This makes CLAT differentially tough on all aspirants, subject to their background.

“Many students in my law school have attempted the exam twice or thrice to get through to it, simply because they didn’t hail from an English-speaking background,” explained a student from NLU Hyderabad.

After grueling years of preparing for CLAT, law students are thrown straight into a 5-year vortex of emerging as a top of the class student. A hefty package becomes the obvious choice for most after graduation. “Most students want to get a comfortable corporate position after graduating from law school, giving back to society is secondary for most of us,” said the NLU student.

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