A 20-year-old final-year BA student, Ayush Tiwari, recently filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking directions to Delhi University that it must conduct its entrance examination for the LLB law course in Hindi in addition to English.
The petition stands on solid ground. Why, indeed, must a student who has been educated throughout in Hindi be forced to take an examination for a professional course in English?
It would be instructive to look at other all-India level examinations in this regard. The All India Pre-Medical Test used to be conducted in English as well as Hindi. The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS/BDS courses is conducted in English and nine other Indian languages.
The Joint Entrance Exam (Main) for admission to engineering courses is conducted in English, Hindi and Gujarati (in the state of Gujarat and adjoining Union Territories). The Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission allows candidates to opt for either English or Hindi as a medium.
However, the Civil Services (Main) Examination, which is subjective, can be attempted by a candidate using any one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India, or in English.
Clearly, there are widely differing patterns across various examinations. One might ask that if the Civil Services Mains examination can be taken in any of the 22 languages included in the Eighth Schedule, then why is the Preliminary examination only in English and Hindi?
These are evidently difficult questions to answer. It is also tempting to read politics into any questioning of existing examination schemes.
Coming to the case of the LLB entrance examination conducted by the University of Delhi, there are certain facts to be noted. Firstly, the examination is an objective one. Secondly, according to the information bulletin released by the university, the examination is to be held online. Thirdly, the examination is an all-India one. Thus, there are examination centres across the country, including in Chennai.
It is important to remember that Delhi University is a central university. This means that neither the English-speaking elite of Delhi, nor the Hindi-speaking masses of the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have any grounds for special treatment.
The petition filed by Mr Tiwari does not go far enough because it prays for the conduct of the examination in just one other language, Hindi. Ideally, the examination should be conducted in all the languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
One argument that may be raised is that because the LLB course semester examinations may be taken in only English or Hindi, there is no need to print entrance examination question papers in any language other than these two. This might invite the counter argument that since Delhi University is a central university, students must also be allowed to take semester examinations in English and any language mentioned in the Eighth Schedule. Obviously, such a scheme is not practical at present. It would be an administrative nightmare and would send shudders down the spines of university officials.
It must be accepted that it is impossible to satisfy everybody. There will always be people dissatisfied with some or the other aspect of the examination.
The best way forward would be to leave it to the Bar Council of India to examine the issue and lay down new guidelines for conduct of examinations to all LLB courses in central universities, keeping in view various aspects such as fairness towards those educated in regional languages, the demands of the profession and also the administrative feasibility.
It is undeniable that conducting the entrance examination to DU’s LLB course in just one language, English, is patently unfair. The lesson is that any reforms must extend beyond Delhi University and beyond Hindi.
Mr Tiwari’s petition is an apt reminder to bring in larger systemic reforms so as to open up the profession of law to bright minds, irrespective of which language they have received their early education in.