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Bar exam syllabus announced: 'Basic-level' multi choice test on 5th Dec but probably no lit practice for pass-outs until 2011 (UPDATE)

Bar exams
Bar exams

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has announced that it will carry out its all-India bar exam in association with legal market services provider Rainmaker as a multiple choice test of 100 questions on 5 December 2010 that will require a "basic amount of preparation" to pass, although the BCI admitted that graduating students would probably not be able to practice in courts until 31 December.

The BCI chairman Gopal Subramanium announced the Bar Council's Vision Statement 2010-2012 at an event held in Delhi at noon today, which was attended by law minister Veerappa Moily and included details on the proposed bar exam as well as relaunching the BCI's new website.

In response to a questions asked by Legally India at the event's press conference, Subramaniam said that the BCI recognised the problem for graduating students that they would not be allowed to practice in courts until they passed their exam on 31 December 2010, although starting to work in law firms would be possible before passing the exam.

He also said that the BCI would do its best to accelerate the process in future. "To be honest we tried to fast forward the time line so that there is no spillage or loss of time. But between the plus and minuses of the situation we also wanted to give adequate time to students to look at the course material," he noted.

"We thought it would be unfair just for the sake of abridging time because we're dealing for the first time with over 800 colleges. The date of declaration of results for these colleges is not uniform so from next time we're going to insist for a uniform date for declaration of results in all colleges. And this really is a special problem this year - teething problems - but they will not occur next year." (article updated with quotes 18:48pm 2 June).

The ambitions of the exam would be to assess advocates' "ability to practice the profession of law", "capabilities at a basic level" and "analytical abilities and basic knowledge of law" by setting a minimum standard for admission, according to a presentation which was made at the event today.

The exam will take place on 5 December, with registration taking place from 15 July to 15 September 2010 at state Bar Council offices. Preparatory materials would be despatched to advocates between 16 August and the first week of October 2010.

Results are set to be announced by 31 December 2010.

The new website of the BCI sets out that the exam would cover "twenty subjects from amongst those prescribed by the BCI for the syllabi of three- and five-year LLB programmes" in two categories.

The first category is 'foundational' in nature and includes seven questions each on alternative dispute resolution, the Civil Procedure Code and Limitation Act; constitiutional law; contract law including specific relief, special contracts and negotiable instruments; criminal law 1: the Indian Penal Code; criminal procedure; drafting, pleading and conveyancing; evidence; jurisprudence; professional ethics and the Professional Code of Conduct for Advocates; and  Property Law.

At least five subjects in Category II will be examined in 23 questions that will be "also critical for a new entrant to the practice of the profession of law" and include administrative, company, environmental, family, human rights, labour and industrial law, tort, motor vehicle accidents, consumer protection, principles of taxation and public international law.

The exam will be an "open-book" format, to which advocates may bring "preparatory materials" such as books and handwritten notes. Questions will be 100 multiple choice questions, where the "focus is on reasoning ability, rather than ability to memorise large texts", and the only possible marks are either pass or a fail, with no ranks or percentage marks published.

The exam is subject to an application fee of Rs1,300 by candidates, which will include preparatory materials in any of nine languages, while the exam itself will also be conducted in nine languages and held at various test centres across India, according to the presentation.

The paper will be prepared in consultation of an expert committee made up of former Supreme Court India judge P.K. Balasubramaniam, former former ISRO chairman MGK Menon, Vice-chancellor of Jamia Milia Islamia Prof Najeeb Jung and senior advocate and additional solicitor general R N Trivedi. The commitee will analyse the results of mock tests held at a number of law schools in India, with their feedback being incorporated into the exam.

After weeks of its rumoured involvement, legal market services provider Rainmaker has now also been confirmed as assisting the BCI in holding the exam.

Photo by comedynose

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