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BCI deflects RTI on bar exam fees, admits no process to select Rainmaker

Responding to a Right to Information (RTI) Act request by a Nalsar graduate, the Bar Council of India (BCI) did not disclose the fees that would be paid to legal industry service provider Rainmaker in connection with conducting the all India bar exam while admitting that it did not actively look for any other suitable providers.

2006 Nalsar Hyderabad graduate and Oxford D Phil student Anup Surendranath sent an RTI request to the BCI on 10 August 2010 making 12 requests for information related to the bar exam.

In particular, Surendranath asked whether the BCI issued a public notification inviting proposals and requested details on the selection process adopted to select organisations, companies or institutions to partner with the BCI on the bar exam, the minutes of relevant meetings, communications and agreements between the BCI and Rainmaker and information relating to the amounts paid and proposed to be paid by the BCI to Rainmaker to date.

On 21 September 2010, BCI officiating secretary and central public information officer JR Sharma replied with a four-page letter and 18 pages of annexures.

In its response the BCI said that “as of this date, no money has been paid to Rainmaker” but did not elaborate further in response to Surendranath’s original request for “information relating to the amounts paid by the [BCI] to Rainmaker till date, and information relating to the amounts proposed to be paid by the [BCI] to Rainmaker in connection with the [bar exam]”.

The BCI also stated that “no public notification was issued inviting proposals to partner the Bar Council of India (BCI) to conduct the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), as the direction to implement the AIBE came from the Hon’ble Supreme Court in proceedings pending before it”.

The response recounted that after media reports were published on the order of the apex court in the Bonnie Foi Law College case, “representatives of Rainmaker came on their own initiative to attend the hearings in the Supreme Court and met the Chairman of the BCI on 23rd April 2010. They originated a proposal and a road map for the implementation of the AIBE and several other reform programmes including a database of legal institutions, lawyers, students, and a CLE programme, and offered to roll out the same with very little expense to the BCI”.

“The Bar Council did not find any companies or organizations which were involved in preparation of legal material and legal knowledge services,” added the BCI. Further, it stated that “no organisation/company/institution came forward to submit proposals to partner the BCI to conduct the AIBE or for any other reforms, apart from Rainmaker”.

“No process/criteria was required for shortlisting” because there had been “no other proposals apart from that of Rainmaker”, wrote the BCI.

The decision to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Rainmaker was taken at the BCI executive committee meeting of 5 June 2010, stated the organisation’s letter, but it did not include the MOU or a minute of that meeting despite Surendranath having requested such minutes.

Earlier this month, the BCI has published minutes of three BCI meetings of 30 April, 21 August and 4 September but there was no record of the 5 June executive committee meeting was published on the BCI’s website or elsewhere.

The BCI did include two emails and presentations sent by Rainmaker to the BCI on 23 April 2010 and 13 May 2010, which consisted mainly of general proposals for the bar exam and reform.

It is understood that Surendranath is looking to appeal the BCI’s response to his RTI.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) and Rainmaker were unavailable for comment.

View the RTI application here.

View the BCI’s response to the RTI application here.

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