Law students and advocates have challenged the Bar Council order that makes the examination compulsory. But while the court has not decided on the issue yet, the exam, which was postponed twice, is to be held on 6th March
A decision on the legitimacy of the All-India Bar Examination (AIBE) is pending in the Supreme Court. However, without any further announcements from the court or the Bar Council of India, the exam is set to be held on 6th March, as scheduled. But according to activists, if the exams are held without the matter being resolved, there could be legal complications.
"If the exams are allowed to be held as scheduled, and later the court decides that the exam itself is invalid, all the students and advocates will suffer. There will be legal complications, which may harm their careers and hamper proceedings in court," said RTI activist Babubhai Vaghela, who has petitioned the court to cancel the exam.
The confusion was set off when the Bar Council of India (BCI) decided to hold an all India exam in 2010. The Bar Council declared that it was compulsory for law graduates to pass the exam in order to become advocates and appear before the court. This condition, however, violated the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961, which does not make any such exam mandatory. According to the Act, any law student who has acquired his degree, can register as an advocate with the local bar council and start his practice.
But the Bar Council, through a resolution, declared an amendment to the Act and declared the exam compulsory, which anyway is strictly the power of Parliament to do so.
Many writ petitions were filed before several high courts, challenging the BCI's authority to hold such an exam. Both activists and law students opposed the exam, saying it was arbitrary and violated Article 14 of the Constitution that gives citizens the right to equality. Many regional bar councils also opposed the exam, questioning the rationale of adding one more exam in the already long list of exams that law students have to take to earn their degrees.
"This exam is not going to improve the quality of legal education," Mr Vaghela said. "It will be an additional harassment and will prove disadvantageous to students who come from rural or impoverished background."
Following this controversy, the exam was postponed twice, first to December 2010, and then again to March 2011. Taking note of the situation, the Supreme Court allowed the BCI to transfer the petition to the Delhi High Court and club all six writ petitions.
However, even as the matter was sub judice, the BCI declared that it would despatch roll numbers to the students appearing for the exam. While the petitioners have urged the Supreme Court and the government to take a decision on the matter before the scheduled date of the exams, there has been no conclusion yet. Confusion prevails and criticism has been mounting against the BCI and the AIBE.
Judicial activist Sandeep Jalan said, "In the absence of any notices, if the exams are allowed to be held it will give the impression that it is valid and that the BCI is authorised to hold such an exam. It will be better if the exams are postponed until a decision is reached."
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