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Why did BCI hike bar exam fees by 40%? BCI stonewalls RTI, says reasons not covered by RTI

BCI reply to RTI for reasons behind 40% hike in bar exam fee
BCI reply to RTI for reasons behind 40% hike in bar exam fee

The Bar Council of India (BCI) denied a right to information (RTI) request for the meeting minutes and reasons for its unexpected decision to yet again increase the bar exam fees by another 40 per cent.

The regulator said that such reasons did not qualify as “information” under the RTI law but were in the category of “explanation” and therefore it was exempted from disclosing them.

RTI applicant Mohit Gupta, a Delhi University LLB student, had filed an application with the law ministry on 27 March 2017 asking, among other queries, the following:

Provide the minutes of the meetings convened for and the reasons behind increasing the fee for the tenth edition of the All India Bar Examination (_AIBE X_) to Rs 3500 for general category candidates and Rs 2500 for SC/ST candidates. Provide records/memos/opinions/orders/reports regarding the same.

The ministry directed the RTI to the BCI which responded three months later on 27 June, after the applicant had already filed a first appeal on 13 June:

Fee for 10th All India Bar Examination was increased vide resolution passed by Executive Committee in its meeting held on 13.11.2016 which was subsequently approved by the general body of Bar Council of India and reason behind such increase is not an information rather an explanation hence it cannot be provided.

In its reply the BCI failed to attach a copy of the minutes of the 13 November EC meeting in which it says that the decision to increase the fee was taken. The applicant had specifically asked for “records”.

However the BCI’s response is at least consistent with its track record on transparency - it has hardly been forthcoming with various applicants’ RTI responses in the past, was almost fined by the Central Information Commission (CIC) for failing to observe the RTI law and produce basic records on its website.

And even the fee hike itself was not explicitly announced and only notified candidates of the increase after some time.

The difference between the registration fee for the first bar exam and its tenth edition is 169%, whereas the facilities available to candidates after registering for the exam - printed study materials, responsiveness of the AIBE helpline, timely conduct and results - have greatly diminished in the six years of its existence.

The last five editions of the bar exam also saw no reduction in the exam retake fees of Rs 2,560.

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