The Bar Council of India (BCI) renewed its dubiously-awarded bar exam contract to underperforming exam agency ITES Horizon Pvt Ltd, without a public tender of the contract and without holding a council meeting for members’ consensus on the renewal.
The BCI first entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ITES Horizon, to conduct the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), on 30 August 2012. The term of this MoU, which Legally India published in May, came to an end on 30 November 2014.
The BCI neither published tender inviting applications from contractors interested in conducting the AIBE, nor did it issue a public notification announcing the renewal of ITES’ contract. The last public tender for the bar exam contract, issued by the BCI, took was in 2012 before the contract was awarded to ITES.
Sources with knowledge of the development confirmed to Legally India that ITES Horizon was continuing to conduct the AIBE to date. They also confirmed that BCI members were not aware of the terms of the BCI’s renewed contract with ITES and that these terms were not documented in minutes of any BCI meeting.
BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra did not respond to Legally India’s email seeking comment since 16 November.
At least one high court judgment, citing the Supreme Court, stated that it is a fundamental right in India to have public bodies award any third party contracts only through public tender, “to ensure transparency […] maximise economy and efficiency […] promote health competition among the tenderers, to provide for fair and equitable treatment of all tenderers, and to eliminate irregularities interference and corrupt practices by the authorities concerned”.
ITES has conducted five bar exams since AIBE-IV, and is now in the process of registering candidates for the AIBE-IX, which was postponed by nearly three months on 16 November to 6 March 2016 after the ITES-operated official AIBE website failed.
In every single AIBE conducted by this contractor, the date of the exam was postponed or experienced a variety of problems. The registration costs for the exam have risen by nearly 100 per cent from Rs 1,300 to now Rs 2,560 despite ITES not delivering on its contractual obligations to provide study materials and create model test papers for candidates.
ITES won the 2012-2014 bar exam contract under suspicious circumstances: It was the least experienced of five bidders for the contract, with none of the technical expertise and history which it claimed to have and on which the award was allegedly based; It missed the application deadline published in the BCI’s tender and filed an incomplete application; It did not even tender the lowest bid for the bar exam contract.
Full Disclosure: BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra has sent a legal notice to Legally India for its story about the BCI’s tender for the contract to run AIBE V. Legally India has responded to Mishra’s notice but has received no further response from Mishra.