ITES Horizon is back as the Bar Council of India’s (BCI) official contractor for the All India Bar Exam (AIBE). Or rather, it never left, despite the BCI chairman having confirmed in 2016 that the contract had expired and saying it would be put up for a tender.
After the official AIBE telephone helplines have basically been impossible to get through to since the 10th exam was kicked off on 4 January, yesterday the AIBE announced five new helpline numbers, after having launched three new numbers last week.
Some of these now finally appear to be accessible, so we called them to try and find out more.
According to persons answering the phone at two of the eight new helpline numbers notified on the AIBE’s website, they were employees of ITES hired for the purpose of answering the helpline and currently sit in the BCI’s Delhi office in Rouse Avenue.
One person who answered our call on one of the numbers today, said that although he was not aware when ITES was asked by the BCI to conduct the bar exam, he could confirm that it was a long time ago and at least since the two old helpline numbers had been displayed on the bar exam’s website.
The helpline contact person we spoke to today said that the two older helpline numbers had always been working as he had manned the lines himself.
We (as well as AIBE candidates) had consistently called the two helpline numbers since the last week of January, and while the Delhi number rang without an answer each time, the Dadri number never rang.
BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra had sent an email to us on 1 June 2016, stating that the tenure of ITES’ bar exam contract with the BCI was over and would be put up for tender.
Mishra had written: >One thing more , the tenure of contract with M/s Ites Horizon has now expired , if you have accepted the brief of some agency again for the coming tender and you have in your mind that by committing nuisance or making some sorts of baseless comments you will succeed in pressuring , tell your foreign fellow , it’s Bar Council Of India not of a foreign country. Here things are done fully in accordance with law. Decisions are taken after thorough consideration .< In June 2016, the main AIBE website, run by ITES Horizon, went offline for “maintenance”, having led us to speculate after Mishra’s email announcing the end of its contract, that ITES might not be running the bar exam any longer.
That was clearly not the case and it is not the first time that the BCI has quietly extended ITES’ contract: the original contract of the BCI with ITES ran out in November 2014, but the 9th bar exam was still conducted by ITES, without a public call for tenders between November 2014 and the previous bar exam in early 2016.
That said, ironically ITES had won a tender for the 2012-2014 bar exam contract under highly suspicious circumstances: it was the least experienced of five bidders for the contract, with none of the technical expertise and history that it claimed to have and on which the award was allegedly based.
ITES had also missed the application deadline published in the BCI’s tender and filed an incomplete application, and it did not even tender the lowest bid for the bar exam contract.
A terrible track record
ITES and the BCI have for five years reneged on their contractual obligation entered into at the time of the first tender, to provide printed study materials to every AIBE candidate.
For the 10th bar exam the FAQs on the bar exam website expressly stated that “no study material will be provided”.
We sent the following email to BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra two days ago (15 February): > Dear Mr Mishra
We understand from several sources that ITES Horizon is conducting the 10th AIBE as the BCI’s official contractor for the bar exam. If this understanding is correct, can you comment on how this has happened, after you commented in June 2016 that ITES’ contract had expired, and also considering various evidence on record suggesting that the original award to ITES was dubious?
Is the latest hike in fee also because of the award of the contract to ITES again, even though they are still not providing sample question papers to those registering for the exam, and this edition of the exam is also already delayed?
We assure you that we will publish your response to this email in full.< We have received no response from Mishra.
All the eight current helpline numbers – 011 23210632 to 9 – are registered with Delhi’s MTNL telecom service. Six of these numbers were working for us at the time of publication.
Persons at three of these numbers confirmed that the 10th AIBE is scheduled to be held on 26 March (the date that the 10th AIBE was tentatively postponed to in January).
The helpline also helpfully confirmed that the registration fee this time was Rs 3,570 for general and OBC category candidates, and Rs 2,570 for SC/ST candidates - something that we had reported after the BCI for weeks did not mention the 40% increased fees anywhere on its website.
The old helpline numbers were 011 49225017 and 120 4897900. The former of these, 011 49225017, that we had called ahead of the 9th AIBE bar exam results, was a line inside the BCI’s office, according to the person answering the phone back then. 120 4897900 was a “new AIBE helpline number” that was notified on the BCI’s website sometime last year, and according to caller identification application Truecaller, it was a line based in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.
Full Disclosure: BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra has wrongly claimed that Legally India wanted to bid for the AIBE. This is incorrect. Mishra had made the allegation in a legal notice to Legally India for its story about the BCI’s tender for the contract to run the fifth AIBE Legally India has responded to Mishra’s notice but has received no further response from Mishra.