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Textbook obfuscation: How the BCI dealt with one lawyer’s RTI by misreading & ignoring 89% of queries (twice)

Tutorial: How to reject RTIs and alienate lawyers
Tutorial: How to reject RTIs and alienate lawyers
Last year the Bar Council of India (BCI) rejected a lawyer’s right to information (RTI) request and appeal  seeking transparency on the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) by simply not answering the majority of queries.

“I am specifically interested in the quality of the bar exam being so bad and some random ITeS conducting it,” commented the lawyer about his interest in the information.

He asked for:

…under the RTI Act on 28 February 2014:

  • details of the AIBE tendering process in which ITeS Horizon was selected as a contractor,
  • details of the “technical expertise” of ITeS Horizon and the terms of the contract,
  • the criteria adopted in the tender,
  • total number of applicants to the AIBEs,
  • the BCI’s internal committees formed and decisions taken for the AIBE,
  • anonymised details of the candidates who took the last AIBE including their undergraduate law college, the grades scored and pass or fail marks,
  • “answer keys” of AIBE IV to VI, 
  • the money generated by the BCI and ITeS,
  • details on who is maintaining the AIBE’s website allindiabarexamination.com,


He received from the BCI:

…three weeks later, on 20 March, a one-page response stating that:

  • allindiabarexamination.com was maintained by ITeS Horizon, and
  • “the certified copy of answer sheets” (rather than answer keys, as actually requested by the applicant) “cannot be provided as per the RESOLUTION of Executive Committee of Bar Council of India held on 2nd March, 2013”.

The BCI did not address any of his other queries or reply to them in turn, but drew the applicant’s “attention” to the RTI Act, which states that “information which related to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual” would not need to be disclosed.

First appeal

The lawyer appealed to the BCI’s first appellate authority under the RTI Act, on 15 May, stating that:

  • in his RTI he had requested for the AIBE’s “answer keys” and not “answer sheets”, with the BCI having rejected the request by reasoning that its executive committee had decided not to disclose the “answer sheets”.

He added in his appeal that:

none of the information sought deals with any privacy issues but on the other hand there is a quintessential public interest characteristic to the data sought. It gives a proper benchmark on how the various colleges/institutions are doing in regards to quality of law education which was the precise reason why the All India Bar Examination was brought into existence in the first place.

BCI’s second reply:

The BCI replied to his appeal on 14 August, stating that on 7 August the BCI had passed a one paragraph order. This order dismissed his appeal, and the reason stated in the order was that the appellate authority – BCI executive committee chairman TS Ajith – had:

found that the [central public information officer], Bar Council of India has correctly taken the stand that we cannot provide 3rd party information which is exempted under Section 8(j) of the RTI Act


The lawyer told Legally India in an email: “I haven’t made time to file appeal with [Central Information Commission]. Hopefully I will file it soon with condonation of delay.”

Best practices

Three lawyers have, to Legally India’s knowledge, submitted copies of Legally India’s RTI request to the BCI last year after the regulator retracted its positive reply during Legally India’s inspection its meeting minutes.

BCI co-chairman Manan Kumar Mishra had said the BCI would not allow copying of the BCI’s internal minutes because he feared Legally India would “create mischief”, despite having invited Legally India to its offices in an RTI response to inspect the requested documents.

Legally India have filed an appeal against the BCI’s redaction.

Legally India has published articles and investigations critical of the transparency of the ITeS Horizon tender in the past.

The BCI had, in 2010, declined an RTI request for the fee to be paid to its previous AIBE contractor Rainmaker for conducting the bar exam, but had admitted that it did not actively look for any service provider other than Rainmaker, to award the AIBE contract to.

If you have any experiences related to the BCI, RTIs or transparency, please let us know confidentially at

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