A law graduate from Nalsar has challenged the decision of the Bar Council of India (BCI) to impose the Bar exam on students graduating in the academic year of 2009-2010. The Chief Justice recused himself from the hearing as the BCI Chairman had sought his opinion on the Bar exam. Also, the Chairman of the Punjab & Haryana Bar Council has resigned citing the Bar exam rule. Our conversation with the Chairman, Partap Singh Saran.
A law graduate from Nalsar has challenged the decision of the Bar Council of India (BCI) to impose the Bar exam on students graduating in the academic year of 2009-2010.
There have been several Public Interest Litigations (PIL) and petitions against the BCI’s decision to conduct Bar exams from this year. The petitioner, Fatehpal Singh, a graduate of the 2010 batch had enrolled on June 2, 2010 before the rules were displayed on the BCI website.
The contention of the petitioner is that by virtue of enrolment, he has a right to appear in any Court or Tribunal under the Advocates Act, 1961 and a rule cannot take away this right. The BCI has powers to make rules only regarding pre-enrolment qualifications. The petitioner is not challenging the Bar Exam per se, but is only challenging the rule which does not entitle him to practice till clearing the Bar exam.
Fatehpal Singh is currently working with Senior Advocate Sanjay Bansal in Chandigarh. Sanjay Bansal is also the Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of four students in a separate writ petition which challeneged the decision of the BCI to conduct the Bar exam.
Fatehpal is also contending that litigating lawyers are at a disadvantage when compared to law firm recruitees as they are not allowed to appear till the Bar exams are completed and therefore have to wait an additional six months for drawing their first salary or fees.
The matter was listed before the Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal of the Punjab & Haryana High Court. Sources indicate that the Chief Justice had to recuse himself as the Chairman of the BCI, Gopal Subramanium had sought his opinion and views before the implementation of the Bar exam.
The matter now will now be posted before a separate bench.
In a separate turn of events, the Chairman of the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana has resigned in protest against the implementation of the Bar exam.
Bar & Bench spoke to the Chairman, Partap Singh Saran (pictured).
On his resignation:
I have resigned in protest of the BCI’s rule to conduct the Bar exam. BCI is our mother body and it is inappropriate to protest against a decision of the body, while being a part of it. Therefore I decided to quit in protest of the Bar exam.
Also, the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana has already passed a resolution opposing this rule of the BCI to conduct the Bar Exam.
We are vehemently opposed to the appointment of a private body, Rainmaker to conduct the Bar exam. What is the basis of their selection? Have they conducted any exams? The Bar exam must be conducted by a government body. Even in the west, most bar exams are conducted by a government body and no private player engages in this process. In this case, there was no resolution passed, there was no hearing on oppositions to appointing Rainmaker as the body to conduct the exam. This is the first time an exam on such a scale has been planned. Can this private institution display expertize to demonstrate that they have handled examinations at such a large scale?
Views on the legal education system:
Law colleges are mushrooming all over the place. The BCI should take an active interest in reforming the legal education system in the country. There should be periodic inspections of law colleges and the state bar councils have to taken an active part in this process. By merely conducting a Bar exam, they (BCI) will not be able to improve the quality of the system. The exam is an open book exam and is a farce test and you cannot judge the quality of lawyers.