Coun­cil says it can­not keep an­swer scripts for long due to ‘paucity of space’.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

Fresh law grad­u­ates and lawyers are out­raged over a “dra­co­nian” un­der­tak­ing which is re­quired to be con­firmed by each can­di­date ap­pear­ing for the All In­dia Bar Ex­am­i­na­tion (AIBE) or­gan­ised by the Bar Coun­cil of In­dia (BCI). They are also an­gry over re­peated in­creases in the fees of the ex­am­i­na­tion over the years.

Ac­cord­ing to the un­der­tak­ing, can­di­dates ap­pear­ing for AIBE have been barred from fil­ing any RTI re­lated to the ex­am­i­na­tion. Can­di­dates have also been asked to “un­con­di­tion­ally” agree to bear the en­tire cost of lit­i­ga­tion aris­ing out of the ex­am­i­na­tion, if the can­di­date loses the case.

Ex­cerpts from the un­der­tak­ing which can­di­dates ap­pear­ing for the AIBE on Sun­day, 3 De­cem­ber, have been made to sign, read: “I do hereby de­clare that the com­plete in­for­ma­tion filed by me in the ap­pli­ca­tion is true and cor­rect to the best of my knowl­edge…. I also un­con­di­tion­ally agree that any or all dis­putes or lit­i­ga­tions aris­ing out of this ex­am­i­na­tion would be sub­mit­ted to the ter­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tion of Delhi courts and if I lose the case lodged or filed by me, I shall pay the en­tire cost of lit­i­ga­tion,… I un­der­take to abide by the de­ci­sion of BCI; and for any reeval­u­a­tion of an­swer sheet, I shall not take shel­ter of pro­vi­sions of RTI Act ,… For re­dres­sal of any griev­ance with re­gard to ex­am­i­na­tion, is­suance of ad­mit card, pub­li­ca­tion of re­sult, I shall not make any ap­pli­ca­tion or claim of RTI ap­pli­ca­tion after 20 days of cause of ac­tion… I shall not be en­ti­tled to make any griev­ance after the pe­riod fixed by BCI….”

Not wish­ing to be iden­ti­fied, a law stu­dent ap­pear­ing for the ex­am­i­na­tion this year said, “This is a dra­co­nian un­der­tak­ing that has been im­posed on us. It is un­law­ful to bar any­body from fil­ing RTI. This is a de­lib­er­ate at- tempt to weaken stu­dents.”

Ad­vo­cate Mo­hit Ku­mar Gupta told The Sun­day Guardian, “Ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion un­der RTI is a statu­tory right and can­not be taken away by the Bar Coun­cil of In­dia. Keep­ing a pe­riod of 20 days for rais­ing an is­sue, is a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to de­stroy records which should nor­mally be kept for one year for an ex­am­i­na­tion that reg­u­lates the es­sen­tial right to prac­tice law. Also re­im­burse­ment of le­gal costs can­not be strait­jack­eted in the un­der­tak­ing for a pub­lic (state) ex­am­i­na­tion as it has no ba­sis and such an uni­lat­eral agree­ment, is null and void.”

Stu­dents have also com- plained about the re­peated in­crease in the fees of the ex­am­i­na­tion over the years. In 2013, the fee for the AIBE was Rs 1,950. In 2014 to 2016, it in­creased to Rs 2,560 and in 2017, it had been raised fur­ther to Rs 3,560.

Man­nan Mishra, BCI chair­man, told The Sun­day Guardian, “There is a time limit for re- eval­u­a­tion of the an­swer script and if stu­dents keep fil­ing them for six months, we can­not en­ter­tain them. There­fore, we have made them sign that un­der­tak­ing. There is a se­ri­ous paucity of space and we can­not keep those an­swer scripts. The cost of lit­i­ga­tion has to be borne by the stu­dents be­cause we are a not for profit or­gan­i­sa­tion and do not get any gov­ern­ment sup­port. We have seen stu­dents fil­ing bo­gus and unim­por­tant lit­i­ga­tion in court for which we have to bear all the cost; there­fore, if they lose the case, they will have to bear all the cost.”

Asked about the ris­ing fees for the ex­am­i­na­tion, he said, “Why don’t you ask the law univer­si­ties when they in­crease their fees? The costs of petrol and diesel have in­creased, the cost of op­er­a­tions has in­creased and there­fore we had to in­crease our fees. What­ever money is left after con­duct­ing the ex­am­i­na­tion, we use it for the lawyers’ wel­fare.”

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