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Subramanium: Full bar exam marks in a week, Rainmaker fees revealed, exam ‘decentralisation’, future plans

Exclusive: Individual bar examinees’ marks would be disclosed together with results on 16 March, said Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium, adding that he was not averse to further state bar council involvement and confirming the fees paid to the private contractor Rainmaker for assisting on the bar exam.

Subramanium (pictured) told Legally India that the first All India Bar Exam’s (AIBE) results would be announced on 16 March. “On 15th itself I’ll be checking the results myself. This is a completely computerised process but even then I’m having the protocol to check everything out.”

“We’re going to display the marks as well so that there’s total transparency – they will be announced on 16 March,” he added with a nod to the writ petition that was admitted in the Delhi High Court today, also noting that prizes would be awarded for the top three marks.

When asked what would happen if more than three candidates were tied for the top score or achieved 100 out of 100 marks, he laughed and said: “We’ll have to make some new prizes – we’ll have to do that.”

The exam was only perceived as “easy because students prepared themselves”, added Subramanium. “I looked at the paper after it was distributed – it was not exactly easy I would say – but if a person was not in the business of being a lawyer” they would have found it difficult.

“I’m very relieved also. I inspected the centres in Delhi and I found everything was actually foolproof. The second thing I noticed was unbelievable discipline amongst the participants – it was unbelievable – it was very disciplined and very serious. There was no invigilator who was a lawyer – I’ve seen to it that a proper check was done and a manual on procedure was to be followed.”

There was only a problem in Chennai, added the BCI chairman, which was caused by “the same people who attacked the court”. The Tamil Nadu government quickly apologised to him after he complained that students should not be hit and exposed to violence, he said. “[The government] said they’d make foolproof [security] arrangements next time. We’ll need to have new question papers obviously there [for the Chennai exam on 27 March].”

“Barring those three centres everywhere else the turnout was excellent.”

A matter of state importance?

On the subject of state bar council’s opposition to the exam, Subramanium said: “To be very fair to the state bar councils also, they’re overjoyed. The bar exam is a credit to them too. While they initially opposed it – it was an unknown thing for them – when they saw the course materials they became more confident.”

In respect of state bar councils’ expressed intention to hold state-wise bar exams he said: “I have no difficulty in decentralising the bar exam but it will have to have standard protocols, if they can assure compliance [with BCI quality standards].”

“I don’t think it’s antagonistic necessarily now – we are on a mound of cooperation now. Things have changed.”

Private sector services rendered

Legal industry services provider Rainmaker would receive Rs 900 out of the Rs 1,300 bar exam fee paid by each examinee, Subramanium confirmed to Legally India today. It is understood that Rainmaker would have to pay for most AIBE expenses out of its own pocket.

“Again we did a costing and all that and we had to look at multiple points. At this juncture we didn’t want it to be a very expensive exam and had to strike down somewhere between the cost of Rainmaker and other costs as well: hiring buildings, making sure of the quality of invigilation and many, many processes,” explained the BCI chairman.

“To be very truthful, I consulted a number of people. I looked at other agencies, I looked at an IIM, I looked at a Tata, Social Sciences, JEE people but this exam was pretty daunting because they were dealing with lawyers. This is not a classical exam and they were somewhat weary of even touching it. I don’t think they knew exactly the methodologies of arrangement or what kind of papers to set [for lawyers].”

Most others were also not ready to offer computerised marking, he added, which could have “led to utter subjectivity” and “malpractices”.

“To be fair to Rainmaker, they actually really just followed my instructions - at every stage I had control over the matter. At no point did Rainmaker take any executive or academic decision in the matter, except some technical processes.”

On technical processes the BCI chairman said that he also took the help of experts from England and Germany who told him that the AIBE systems of computerised grading were of an international standard.

“But to be fair to Rainmaker and also the many, many young people apart from Rainmaker who helped,” he later added, “it’s a tribute to the youth, it’s a tribute to young people. What had also impressed me is their absolute levels of integrity.”

Rainmaker was unavailable for comment when contacted.

Examining the future

Subramanium explained that after 16 March he would do a qualitative review and “maybe a third party review” to take a call about when, how and who would conduct the next exam.

“It’s a very good sign that it was possible for so many things to be done in a very short time,” he noted but added that nevertheless he had to remain a driving force behind the exam.

“I had to either field it or I was gone. I was the batsman and the bowler and fielder as well. And finally the umpire too,” mused Subramanium.

Roadmap: IDs, ethics, continuing legal education

“The next few milestones I have in my mind for the reform process - they can go faster now actually,” said the solicitor general.

“First, the unique ID number project – and then after the UIN project, we would do what we call the lawyers’ training programmes and the optional CLE [continuing legal education] programmes. And our ethics guidelines will be published by the middle of April.”

“And then I’m also having discussions with various international bodies, they are appreciating that we need a commonly defined ethical set of rules. If in future times there is multi-jurisdictional practice it should be known what is the position.”

Photo courtesy of Rainmaker

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