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Should CLAT Be Held in Local or Vernacular Languages?

On 19th June 2020, Delhi HC passed an order regarding a plea seeking conduction of CLAT in different languages other than English. The single-judge bench of Justice Nazim Waziri scrapped off the case by asking the Bar Council of India (BCI) to consider the present petition/plea as a representation and to take the decision within three weeks and to convey the same to the petitioner thereby shifting the onus of this case or plea onto the BCI. The plea was filed by Mr Pratham Kaushik which sought the conduction of Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), including the one which is yet to take place for the year 2020, in local languages. (Pratham Kaushiks & Anr vs. UOI & Ors)

The concern of the petitioner was that the absence of provisions to write the exam in local languages and in English only was hindering several eligible candidates from participating in the examination. They want the CLAT to be conducted in Hindi as well stating that it is unfair to Article 343 of the Indian Constitution which says that Hindi is the National Language of India.

After considering all the facts and arguments made by the parties, the Court observed that since the BCI set the standards for admitting the students into law schools, it should take a call on the cause espoused by the petitioners.

A simple and lucid opinion of this plea turns out that first, because of the changes in the pattern of the CLAT that were implemented from this year which made CLAT more “comprehension based” and less “option based” which was criticized as potentially worsening the division between the privileged few who speak English as their first or second language and others.

The opinion against scrapping English as the only language of the CLAT is considerable. The Supreme Court generally only conducts its proceedings in English and so most of the High Courts. English remains the career language of many lawyers in India and the ones who completed their education in India but are practising outside India. English was optioned as the one and only language in modern legal education after the starting of NLUs in the country. Holding the CLAT in multiple languages besides English, particularly without National Law Schools offering an all-inclusive education in that language with English, risks creating several parallel languages legal streams with students in the non-English stream potentially facing a harder time, later on, to operate in the entire Indian Legal System, from lower courts in local languages to the High Courts’ working majorly in English and Supreme Court only working in the English.

If something like a non-English CLAT happens then it would also necessitate a wholesale reformation of not just the legal education system but the whole Indian Legal System giving it a new form which is far less than the present is not going to happen.

As of today, there has been no decision given by the BCI regarding this matter.

Aayush Shrivastava

1st-year Law Student

Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh


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