Raising the bar
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The law minister recently announced that potential aspirants to any of the law schools or colleges in India would be subject to a common entrance examination. Many are likely to question the feasibility of such a pan-India examination and the merits or otherwise of an exclusive entrance exam-based approach towards selecting students. The point of this note, however, is to draw the law ministry's attention to an already existing examination administered by an elitist set of law schools that go by the haloed name of "national law schools".
For many years, these law schools, widely regarded as the premier legal institutions in the country, held their own examinations to test potential students on their aptitude for the study of law.
Pursuant to a petition that challenged the inconvenience occasioned to students from the conduct of multiple law entrances by the various law schools, the Supreme Court mandated the institution of a joint entrance exam. And thus was born CLAT or the Common Law Admission Test, currently administered by a club of 11 national law schools.
However, despite the trappings of a common entrance, the responsibility for conducting exams each year, particularly the setting of the question paper, lay primarily with an individual law school (decided by rotation each year). Indeed, the incumbent law school had almost unfettered discretion in determining the quality and content of the paper, sans any external review.
In 2009, it was abruptly decided that "legal reasoning" would be dropped from the ambit of the CLAT paper. This jaw-dropping initiative by NALSAR, a Hyderabad-based law school, turns the concept of a legal entrance exam on its head. Wouldn't "legal reasoning" be the most important test of legal aptitude and potential for study at a law school? Interestingly however, the paper that year had a separate section on "legal knowledge" testing candidates on their specific knowledge of court cases and legal doctrines. This section constituted 25 per cent of the total marks!
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