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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016

Tame Legal Hiccups Before Bar Exam

Hemant Kumar, Advocate

The   Bar Council of India (BCI) has reportedly approached the Supreme Court urging it to transfer before itself all writ petitions filed before different High Courts by aggrieved law students challenging the proposed All India Bar Examination. Pertinent to mention that the main contention in all petitions question competency of the BCI to conduct such an exam for entry into Bar when the Advocates' Act, 1961 is silent over it.  Amidst all arguments and counter-arguments regarding power to the BCI in this regard,  if it is  serious enough for conduct of hassle-free Bar Exam, it should urge the Government to immediately table a Bill in coming Monsoon Session incorporating appropriate amendments in the Advocates' Act, 1961  providing for the same. A draft of such Bill has already been proposed in 184th Report of Law Commission (2002). The condition laid down by the BCI asking all fresh law graduates to first get themselves enrolled with respective Bar Council(s) before appearing in the Exam merits review and there is no rationale in getting enrolled as an advocate without passing the Bar Exam.  It would mean all such persons would be  duly enrolled advocates but without right to practice or appear/argue in courts as such a right would be available only after their passing the exam because   a "Certificate of Practice" would be granted only to the successful ones. What is the need for these two certificates - one of enrolment and another of practice; this would mean all pre-2010 would be just enrolled advocates while fresh ones would be "enrolled certified advocates".   Instead of all this, all fresh candidates should rather be asked to first pass the Exam and then get themselves enrolled with respective State Bar Council(s) as enrolment as an advocate without right to practice makes no sense. After all, if one wants to pursue career as non-litigating /in-house counsel or as a legal consultant, there is no need for enrolment with Bar Council. Perhaps the  BCI has made such a provision  as it has no power to lay down any condition prior to enrolment of advocates as such  power is only possessed in Parliament by amending Section 24 of the Advocates' Act.  The BCI needs to understand that even after its cautious approach, the present concept of Bar Exam would still be subjected to judicial review.  Only last year, the Apex Court  stayed the BCI Rules relating to  legal education which provided for maximum age limit for  admission to law course at 30 years for three-years course and 20 years for five years integrated degree.  Hope the BCI Chief, Gopal Subramaniam, who has vowed to refurbish our legal profession, would endeavour to give the concept of Bar Exam a statutory shield.

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