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Latest bar exam proposal update: All law grads may practise subject to giving undertaking to pass AIBE

Latest update: All 2010 law graduates may be able to practise law subject to giving an undertaking they would clear the all-India bar exam within two years, according to a bar council source. Read on below for further details.

Exclusive: Subject to restrictions, Delhi and a number of other bar councils would permit 2010 graduates to practise in courts before passing the bar exam on 6 March 2011 said Bar Council of India (BCI) member Rajinder Singh Rana after yesterday’s BCI meeting in Chennai, adding that the state bar councils would also insist on three to four additional test centres in every state.

However, Delhi bar council chief Rakesh Tiku told Legally India that the entire exam could yet be called off.

BCI member Rana told Legally India that yesterday’s “short” BCI meeting in Chennai confirmed that the exam would be postponed to 6 March 2011 and that Delhi and a number of other state bar councils would not prevent 2010 graduates from practising in some courts, subject to restrictions which would still be decided.

“It is still not official yet but we are not going to stop them [from practising] but restrictions will be put in place at the next meeting – we will put some conditions,” said Rana.

However, he added that “after March 6th we will not allow any [graduates who did not pass the exam] to practice”.

Rana explained that the BCI members would hold another longer meeting in Delhi to discuss the precise restrictions would be imposed on 2010 graduates’ practice before passing the exam, which could include limitations on the courts the graduates appeared in.

Update 22 November 11:53: It is understood that one 2010 graduate was informed by a senior BCI source that before beginning to practise, students may have to give an undertaking that they would sit for the exam in March although it was unclear to whom such undertaking would have to be issued, by when and how this would be controlled.

Update 22 November 13:42: Legally India has received confirmation from a state bar council source with knowledge of the Chennai meeting that graduates in all states would be allowed to practise, so long as they gave an undertaking that within a period of two years they would clear the all-India bar exam. Consequences for not clearing the exam had not yet been decided on. The BCI members also decided for legal industry services provider Rainmaker to not hold the bar exams following March 2011, which would be conducted by state bar councils in their respective states. Legally India could not confirm whether this was a unanimous BCI view or just that of one state bar council representative.

Rana said that no date was fixed for the next meeting although it could happen within 20 days. Rana said he was not aware of which other bar councils would also permit advocates to practice.

He also noted: The state bar councils demanded that the number of [test] centres are very low. We want to extend the centres for the examination to three or four more centres in each state.”

The original all India bar exam (AIBE) proposal had called for 27 examination test centres across India, according to the BCI’s website.

Update 23 November 7:35am: The Indian Express also confirmed this morning that graduates may be permitted to practise only after signing an undertaking to clear the bar exam in future and subject to possible limitations on rights of audience in certain courts. A final decision might be reached within a fortnight, Maharashtra and Goa bar council member Deshmukh told the paper.

Delhi bar council opposes exam without statutory amendment

Delhi bar council chairman Rakesh Tiku took a stronger stance, while confirming that the Delhi bar council would not stop 2010 graduates from practising.

Tiku said: “We have taken the stance that the whole notification of the BCI proposing to have the examination on December or the adjourned date – we are opposing it. We are recommending that the whole thing should be reviewed by the respective state bar councils whether we need an exam at all or to include this option in various colleges’ curriculum.”

He also said that the bar exam would be prejudicial against many lawyers outside the metro cities, where the quality of lawyers may not be as sound as in the metros but whom you should not prevent from becoming lawyers. “You can’t oust them from practising,” he stated.

“Secondly we are saying that the BCI has no authority to give the exam,” added Tiku. “The Advocates Act [1961] has not been amended and if at all the exam has to be done, let respective state bar councils give it.”

Tiku said that this thought process had been conveyed to the BCI and that at a meeting on 2 October, 14 state bar councils had passed a unanimous resolution before BCI chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium that they had opposed the exam.

“We are not supporting it, whether December or March,” Tiku added. This is unanimous.”

Legally India first reported on Tuesday that state bar councils and the BCI was considering whether or not to carry out state-wide exams.

Earlier today Legally India reported that the Supreme Court transfer petition in the bar exam cases may yet be heard this month after all.

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