Delhi High Court seeks response on conducting law admission test in regional languages, following discrimination allegations

Law student files PIL on behalf of regional language learners, claiming that the CLAT (UG) exam is discriminatory towards non-English speaking students
File photo of Delhi High Court | (Pic: Express)
File photo of Delhi High Court | (Pic: Express)

On Wednesday, March 15 the Delhi High Court requested a response from the Consortium of National Law Universities, the Bar Council of India, and the Ministry of Education regarding a petition requesting that the Common Law Admission Test- 2024 (CLAT) be conducted not only in English but also in other regional languages. Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notices to the concerned parties and set a deadline of four weeks for them to file their replies. The case has been listed for further hearing on May 18, stated a report by PTI.

Sudhanshu Pathak, a law student at Delhi University, filed the Public Interest Litigation on behalf of the students whose educational backgrounds are rooted in regional languages. Pathak claimed the CLAT (UG) examination "discriminates" and fails to provide a "level playing field" to them.

“In a hyper-competitive paper, they are linguistically disempowered as they have to surpass the additional hurdle of learning and mastering a new language. 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,” senior advocate Jayant Mehta, lawyers Akash Vajpai and Sakshi Raghav, representing the petitioner, said as reported by PTI.

As per the petition, the New Education Policy of 2020 and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 mandate the mother tongue should be the language of instruction in both schools and higher education institutions. It is regrettable that only English is offered as the medium of instruction for the CLAT-(UG) exam, which deprives a significant portion of students who have studied in their regional or native languages of the opportunity to pursue a five-year LLB course in law. The CLAT-2024 exam is scheduled to take place in December 2023. 

“Through this petition, the petitioner is seeking issuance of an appropriate writ or direction to respondent no.1 (Consortium of National Law Universities) to conduct CLAT-2024 not only in English language but all other regional languages of the Eight schedule of the Constitution of India as a practice of taking CLAT (UG) only in English has an element of arbitrariness and discrimination and hence violative of article 14 and 29(2) of the Constitution,” it said.

As stated in the petition, a recent survey conducted by the IDIA Trust (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to legal education) showed that over 95% of the surveyed students attended schools where English was the language of instruction at both the secondary and higher secondary levels.

“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,” it said as reported by PTI.

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