An open letter to the GNLU Director – Dr. Bimal N Patel

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Dear Bimal Patel Ji,

I have always held you and your institution in high esteem. I still vividly remember doing a story in 2011, while I was covering CLAT, which indicated the GNLU as the biggest gainer of CLAT 2011. I have even advised many CLAT aspirants to opt for the GNLU above many other law schools, since I strongly felt  that, the GNLU would emerge as one of the best law schools in the country considering the pace of its growth. I admire the steps you have been taking to make the GNLU a truly world class University in the next five years.

However, I feel the year 2012 has not been good for GNLU and its growth. A lot of things have brought GNLU in news for the wrong reasons which the administration could have avoided.

CLAT aspirant, Donnie Ashok, had to file a writ petition in the Gujarat High Court against the GNLU for refusing him admission to the university on the ground that he did not clear the 10+2 exam in his first attempt. The High Court had directed GNLU and the CLAT convenor to keep one seat vacant at GNLU. However, the matter was later amicably settled and Donnie was granted a seat. GNLU could have avoided this litigation and the cost involved had the GNLU considered the merits of Donnie’s case earlier within the system; which the GNLU did not do.


Few months later  GNLU was in the news for making 189 of its students to contribute 4 hours of community work, viz. gardening, weeding, watering plants, planting trees for attending a party without ‘authorisation’ from the college authorities. Personally I have felt this to be an invasion on the privacy of the students. The administration has nothing to do with the personal life of students outside the campus. I am sure that the students of the GNLU are capable of choosing between right and wrong.


Again the GNLU was in the news for alleged arbitrary admissions. As per the report of Times of India, a senior forest official had alleged that the University was following arbitrary rules and regulations in the admission process thereby doing injustice to students who deserve admission on the basis of merit. It is often alleged that though the Review Commission was appointed to plan and execute the list of criteria to make GNLU, a true world class University in the next five years; what fuelled the immediate formation of the Review Committee was the TOI report regarding arbitrary admissions.

Allegedly 400+ students had submitted a Petition to the Review Committee, a copy of which is with me. I was terribly disappointed after reading the Petition. The students raised issues about non appointment of a permanent Registrar, need for a students’ association, mandatory PSU internship, examination rules, back door admissions and a lot of other things. Once, you told me during a telephone conversation on this petition, “See the issue is not about a Bimal or a Raghul but the University”. Considering and respecting that fact, I have not let the report out in the media and have only made a brief reference about the same in a report which I did recently.

The petition also raised the issues relating to detention and goodness marks norms which has been quashed by Gujarat High Court.

It was sad for me to learn that you were filing an appeal against the order of the learned single Judge. The Court while setting aside the goodness mark norm mentioned that, “by including this ‘Goodness’ marks condition, the University has “given a tool in the hands of the faculty members, which could be used by them at their own whims and caprice. Such discretionary power in the hands of the faculty members would change the atmosphere of the college like for bad where everything would be under the command and control of the faculty members and the students would refrain from a free discussion in the class-room with the fear that if their view-point annoys the concerned faculty then it would weigh against them at the time of awarding the “goodness” marks. Such discretionary power is against the spirit of education”.

It is also a disheartening fact that the expenses for pursuing litigation are being met out of University exchequer when the said amount could be used for other fruitful purposes like development of infrastructure or for providing fee concession to under privileged kids who enter the law schools.

I am in full agreement with the view of the learned single Judge regarding the detention norms and goodness mark norm that the same should be quashed. These two rules will only be a blot on free academic atmosphere that a law university like GNLU asserts to guarantee. Hence, I humbly request you to honour the decision of the learned single judge of the Gujarat High Court and withdraw the appeal you have filed. I sincerely hope that the matter is amicably settled and GNLU emerges as the best legal institution of the country in the years to come. As you rightly pointed out, the issue is not about a person but about the University!

Best Regards,
Raghul Sudheesh

Image Courtesy: Bar & Bench

Service Tax in Restaurants - What the law really says!

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On Saturday, November 3, 2012, The Delhi High Court Bar Association published a notice titled “Service and Service Tax!” (shown above in the image). The notice contained averments claiming that restaurants in India were incorrectly charging 4.94% service tax on the total bill of a customer and that service tax payable at a restaurant is only payable on the ‘service charge’ component of the Bill. The contents of the notice were also spread among lawyers and law students across the country via Facebook and tax law related websites such as CAClubIndia etc. This news spread like wildfire and became very popular online since the averments indicated overt defraudment of the public and many people resorted to expressing their resentment about the same on social media sites, under the impression that the contents of the notice were based on the correct position of law.


At the outset, I’d like to make it clear that the notice has been made based on an incorrect interpretation of the Service Tax (Determination of Value) Rules, 2006 and that this would be evident if one merely looked at the relevant provision in the rules. Let me try to explain the correct position of law as simply as possible.

Rule 2C, inserted via the Service Tax (Determination of Value) Second Amendment Rules, 2012 provides that:

"2C. Determination of value of service portion involved in supply of food or any other article of human consumption or any drink in a restaurant or as outdoor catering.- Subject to the provisions of section 67, the value of service portion, in an activity wherein goods being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink (whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of the activity at a restaurant or as outdoor catering, shall be the specified percentage of the total amount charged for such supply, in terms of the following Table, namely:-

1) Service portion in an activity wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of the activity, at a restaurant - 40 %

2) Service portion in outdoor catering wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of such outdoor catering - 60 %

Explanation 1.- For the purposes of this rule, "total amount" means the sum total of the gross amount charged and the fair market value of all goods and services supplied in or in relation to the supply of food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating), whether or not supplied under the same contract or any other contract, after deducting-
(i) the amount charged for such goods or services, if any; and
(ii) the value added tax or sales tax, if any, levied thereon:"

What this means is that service tax as prescribed by the rules is chargeable at normal rates i.e. 12.36 %. This rate is applicable to only 40% of the total bill amount, since the rest falls under the abatement mentioned above. Since 12.36 multiplied by 0.4 is 4.94%, this is the percentage of tax that is to paid on the TOTAL bill amount (since Explanation 1 says that 'total amount' means gross amount charged in or in relation to the supply of food etc.). There is no involvement of a ‘service charge’ component here since the abatement of 60% means that 40% is considered as the implicit service charge for taxation purposes.

Thus, it is quite evident that the service tax of 4.94% is to be calculated on the Total Bill Amount and not merely the ‘service charge’ component of the Bill, as claimed by the Notice.

First of all, I think it is highly irresponsible that a well respected body such as the Delhi High Court Bar Association would release such a notice without backing the same with the requisite amount of research. Owing to the source from which the notice was released, most lawyers and law students did not bother to check the veracity of the claims since they assumed that the authors of the notice would know their law. I think they should rectify the harm done by issuing a press release accepting that what was stated in the notice was incorrect in law. Secondly, what this whole debacle illustrates is the lack of knowledge on service tax among the legal community. The general conception among law students that tax law is greek and latin does not help this cause either. So, in simple terms, everyone just assumed that since it’s called ‘service tax’, it is paid only on the ‘service charge’, which seems very logical. I think this should be a sort of wake up call to all interested students/general practitioners who believed this story and they should seriously consider brushing up more on their tax law knowledge.

Owing to the growing rate of Facebook hoaxes, as aptly underlined by the whole ‘Samsung paid Apple in pennies’ incident, as lawyers/law students, I feel it is our duty and moral responsibility to do research and to verify ANY claim based on ANY law ourselves before sharing it on a social media site. The ignominy that this incident has attached to it is as shameful as a doctor prescribing incorrect medicine for a fairly obvious disease. We are supposed to know the law, and even if we don’t know it yet, we absolutely MUST find out what the law is before giving advice to the public because that is what our law schools, internships and careers are supposed to teach us – how to do legal research!

Results of the NUALS-CPSLR-Giri & Giri Essay Competition declared: Avneesh of RMNLU tops the list

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The results of the NUALS-CPSLR-Giri & Giri First National Legal Research Essay Competition 2012 were declared recently. Avneesh Kumar, a 5th year student of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow bagged the first prize while securing 221 marks out of 300. Avneesh was followed by Shashank Pant from UPES, Dehradun who scored 219 marks. The third prize was bagged by Sudeshna Banerjee and Sanjana Gandhi from KIIT Law School, Odisha as joint authors. They scored 215.5 marks.

The rank list of the top ten students is as follows:


S.No
Name and Address
Register Number
Marks/300
Rank
1
Avneesh Kumar,
5th year,B.A.LL.B.(Hons.),
RMNLU, Lucknow
015
221
1
2
Shashank Pant,
4th Year, B.A.LL.B.(Hons.),
UPES, Dehradun
020
219
2
3
Sudeshna Banerjee and
Sanjana Gandhi,
 4th Year, B.A.LL.B.(Hons.),
KIIT Law School, Odisha
023
215.5
3
4
 Lekha Vijayan, 
9th Sem, 
NUALS, Kochi
031
209
4
5
Ashima Jain and 
Aman Raja, 5th Semester,
Institute of Law,
NIRMA University, Ahmedabad
019
204.5
5
6
Vasundhra Minocha and
Pranav Nanda,
2nd Year,
Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
007
204
6
7
Anees Backer,
5th Year, B.A. LL.B. (Hons.),
NALSAR University of Law,
Hyderabad
033
198
7
8
Jayati Ghosh,
2nd Yr. B.A. L.L.B,
Symbiosis Law School, Pune
004
196
8
9
Prarthna Baranwal and
Garima Srivastava,
Sem V, HNLU, Raipur
024
189
9
10
Aakriti Pandey and
Palash Taing,
 4th Year, RMNLU, Lucknow
and Symbiosis Law School,
Pune
022
186.5
10
11
Adeeba A. Rahman and
Aishwarya H,
4th Year, BA LLB Hons,
NUALS, Kochi
032
186.5
10

Stripped Law wishes heartiest congratulations to the winners!

A short scrutiny of a rare Scholar – A combination of the “Bar, Bench and Academics”

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NB: This is a guest post from a Law Student who wishes to keep his identity confidential.

Looking back it appears not a long-gone time when the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, reckoned his views on the mushrooming of law schools in the country. According to him, besides a few “islands of excellence”, law colleges in India were “a sea of institutionalized mediocrity.”

As is unfamiliar to none, the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, was conceptualized and brought into existence under the dynamic leadership of Professor Madhav Menon, on having received a missive from the then Chairman of BCI, Mr. Ram Jethmalani, requesting him to bring about a change in the system of legal education in the country. Since its inception, the law school has done exceedingly well for itself; in terms of both academics and alumni record. Further, a review of the recent Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) preferences of the high-scoring candidates indicates that NLSIU is still the top school of choice for prospective law students. To this date, there exists as much as 15 National Law Schools in India, in toto.

The National Law Schools, inter alia, have been highly acclaimed for its rich repository of some of the best brains of the country. Even otherwise, to begin with the lucrative placements at the end of the 5-year course, to the academic exposure, everything about a N-tag Law School has always been a constant buzz of attraction for the law students. Law schools of the non-national stature have also maintained a reputable position for themselves with similar contribution to the legal field; having given a few of the most polished minds of times. However, boiling down to the main point- there has always been an apparent higher footage, in the sense of choice/preference, for the National Law Schools over other Law Schools of the country.

Having said that, it is pertinent to draw the attention to those impulsive individuals, under whose intense leadership these Institutions are generally necessitated and maneuvered. They give voice to the curriculums and co-ordinate the system to exist and operate in such a way so as to benefit hundreds in the best manner possible. Luminaries from higher judiciary, dignitaries holding immense and enriching experience in academics, and scholars with astounding credentials are among the ones upholding the position to run these ‘islands of excellence’. At the outset, a reasonable standard of expectation dwells with these individuals for the betterment and maintenance of brilliancy in such Universities. Under such pools of expectations, lies the responsibility to uphold the status quo and look forward for a decent and apt projection of their credentials.

And here we arrive at the unfortunate part. As much as it is a matter of concern, it’s a matter of disgrace at the same decibel for all of us that one such eminent personality in the legal fraternity has failed us in this aspect. A person upholding the position of a Vice-Chancellor in one of the most reputed National Law University is seen to have taken the minimal interest in projecting the most appropriate of his credentials to the public. And what more; such a scene is conspicuously maintained in the official website of the University! The curriculum vitae which talks of the “Martial Status” of the Vice-Chancellor, instead of “Marital Status”, which claims of his position as the “standing council” for educational institutions and which revolves around his “unique combination of bar, bench and academics” is certainly not an appealing gesture to be appreciated by any graduate, or otherwise, for inspiration or reference.

However, this is not a point of debate challenging the originality or credentials of the Vice-Chancellor, or questioning the veracity of his academic excellence and experience. Instead, it should drill a reasonable doubt in our minds as to whether we should actually look up to such persons when it comes to preceding hundreds of students when they themselves take no heed in suitable projection and consort to such harum-scarum profiles! It is nothing but a conscious measure to highlight the fact that persons of such stature and eminence are expected to at least mete out to the acknowledged norms.

And now we head towards another heated debate of the year, i.e., the pandemonium caused by CLAT 2012, which, inter alia, concerns the involvement of the aforesaid luminary. This year saw the hue and commotion questioning the potentialities of the organizing University when it came to the preparation and management of one of the biggest entrance examinations of our country. Doubts arose as to the credibility of the University to indulge in a fair and prudent procedure of conducting an exam which was undertaken by more than twenty thousand aspirants. What appeared to be the case, prima facie, was that the CLAT committee failed to give the right instructions to the "expert committee" that the concerned Vice-Chancellor speaks of. Needless to say, the expert committee would not have committed this blunder had they been told that they were not supposed to be asking the non-essentials as per the prescribed syllabus. And then of course the inevitable; why was the "expert committee" not informed about the syllabus? And to this there can be only two possible reasonable explanations. Either it could be an oversight, or it could be intentional.

But then, shouldn’t there be safeguards put into place to avoid oversight, mistakes, or corruption? Evidently, these questions are relevant not only for this year's CLAT, but to all future CLATs which are going to be held. Unfortunately the answers all seem to be negative from the outcome. Prima facie the concerned University and the CLAT committee did not put into place any process that ensures a mistake-free, good quality question paper.

Under the blanket of such discussions, apropos the powers and limitations enshrined upon this dignitary and the manner and extent to which they are executed, settles the reiterated distrust for such a person. Like they say, a mistake committed by one person may not necessarily affect him, but in turn affects others either directly or indirectly associated with him. The write-up was just an attempted approach in bringing about the tiniest hinge of disbelieve on such a person who, apart from being derelict as regards his own recognitions, has also been conspicuously framed as a delinquent leader.

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. So why not as the future of tomorrow, we expect our present to be led and maneuvered by persons beyond any scope of doubt? In any case, isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? After all, this is what we are taught at our law schools- the case at hand is innocent unless proven beyond any scope of reasonable doubt!

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