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Advocate on record exam pass rate hits record low of 19% • VIPS Delhi, Nalsar alums top 125 new AORs, one reveals secret of success

Neha Malik, second time luckiestNeha Malik, second time luckiest

The Supreme Court Advocates on Record (AOR) exam has produced the lowest pass rate in 4 years after it dropped down to 19%.

125 new AORs were announced on 24 February in the results of the June 2017 exam, which judging by the list of roll numbers in the results was taken by around 650 candidates.

Nalsar Hyderabad alumnus Dhananjay Mishra and VIPS Delhi 2010 alumnus Neha Malik scored the highest marks in this edition of the exam. Mishra was appearing for the exam for the first time but Malik was reappearing for it after having failed one out of the four papers that comprise the exam.

Malik, who was reappearing for the paper on Supreme Court practice and procedures, commented: “You can’t just go through the Supreme Court Rules 2013 and get through. You have to practically be very thorough with the procedure [followed for filing in the Supreme Court].”

Marks break up

Both Mishra and Malik scored 296 marks out of 400 or 74% marks each. Malik, who had scored 90, 72 and 68 marks out of 100 in the other three papers in the AOR exam in 2016, had failed the SC practice and procedure paper in 2016 after scoring only 43 marks out of 100.

An aggregate of 60% with at least 50% marks in each of the 4 papers is required to clear the exam. If candidates manage to score 60% aggregate marks while failing to clear one of the four papers with 50% marks, or if candidates fail to score an aggregate of 60% while clearing all the papers with at least 50% marks in each, they are allowed to reappear within one year.

Paper strategy

Malik was in the litigation team of Naik & Naik & Co and practising in the Bombay high court from 2010 to 2012, after which she joined the chambers of AORs Ravinder Narain and Rajan Narain and is continuing there.

She said that while the practice and procedure paper was not tougher than the paper on drafting and leading cases, it did require the kind of knowledge which comes only with “being very very regular practising at the Supreme Court” and merely “mugging up” the bare acts and rules does not cut it as preparation for the paper.

On the “toughest” paper - leading cases and drafting, she commented: “Its syllabus is very huge. The leading cases are more than 40 in number. Then there are recent judgments and the view of the Supreme Court on the same issues in the present scenario, the major changes and amendments in the constitution. So the most extensive study and most of your time goes in reading those cases.”

“All these years you have studied those cases with a different viewpoint but for this exam its a different ballgame altogether,“ she said adding,“apart from that the drafting paper requires very good skills on drafting special leave petitions - civil and criminal, affidavits, bills, general power of attorney and everything in 3 hours on fresh situations.”

She said that the classes for the exam, which senior advocates address one month before the exam - including ones such as Indira Jaising, PP Rao and TR Andhyarujina - were available free of cost to AOR exam aspirants and were extremely helpful due to “the way the elaborate and make suggestions about what they’re expecting out of us”.

24% AORs made it past the June 2016 exam while the pass rate in 2015 was 30% and in 2014 was 22%. The toppers last year were from Pune University and from Symbiosis Pune.

Click to show 35 comments
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By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 06 Mar 18, 20:58
Nalsar alumnus Dhananjaya Mishra*. Thanks.
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Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 07 Mar 18, 02:39
Thanks, corrected!
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Like +2 Object -0 Guest 06 Mar 18, 21:01
"She said that the classes for the exam, which senior advocates address one month before the exam - including Indira Jaising, PP Rao and *TR Andhyarujina* this time -"

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Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 07 Mar 18, 02:45
Maybe she meant in previous exams... Will clarify article. RIP
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Like +0 Object -0 Classes 07 Mar 18, 15:15
The review lectures for the 2017 exam were held by P. P. Rao (Leading Cases), Meenakshi Arora (Drafting), Indu Malhotra (SC Practice and Procedures) and R. Venkataramani (Ethics)
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 07 Mar 18, 08:03
Dear Guest,
They have taken classes in the past..and the same have been extremely useful for the budding AORs.. if you want you can recheck the facts for yourself.
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Like +9 Object -1 hello 06 Mar 18, 22:20  interesting
It would have been better if something more would have been written about Dhananjay Mishra, article is focused on Ms. Malik who cleared it in second chance.
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Like +9 Object -1 Mohanlal 06 Mar 18, 23:32  interesting
Irresponsible Journalism. Please hire a fact checker.
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Like +0 Object -7 Mammootty 07 Mar 18, 09:36
Bro, be nice!
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Like +5 Object -0 Induchoodan 07 Mar 18, 17:03  interesting
Nee po monne dinesh!
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Like +7 Object -1 Mohanlal 07 Mar 18, 21:27  interesting
Okay. Sorry.
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Like +4 Object -5 Guest 07 Mar 18, 11:44
NLU grads stand at a disadvantage in this exam compared to the ordinary colleges. The emphasis of this exam in mostly on rote learning and blackletter law. At NLUs the focus is on critical approaches to law, interdisciplinary approaches, foreign case law, new and emerging legal subjects, Socratic method of teaching etc. In comparison, tons of NLU alumni do US LLMs and ace the NY bar exam.

Hence, the low success rate of NLU grads in this exam means nothing. On the contrary, the exam should be restructured in accordance with the syllabus of NLUs.
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Like +2 Object -0 NLU grad 07 Mar 18, 12:20
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Like +2 Object -0 RickTheMulletMan 07 Mar 18, 17:04
Which NLU are you promoting today?
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Like +2 Object -0 Supreme Court Lawyer 08 Mar 18, 11:00
This is the silliest comment ever. The practice of law has nothing to do with what college you go to. This exam is all about knowing the Supreme Court practice. It's also very different from the NY Bar exams the alums of NLUs 'Ace'. There is no comparison between becoming an AoR and an registered lawyer in the US.

Besides, no one really needs to go to the classes. You go for them as they are lectures from the best of the best in the industry and to learn. If you are a regular and ethical lawyer at the Supreme Court, which is the basic requirement of the AoR exam, you should be able to self study and 'Ace' it.

Give it a shot buddy, I'm sure your NLU diploma will hold you in good stead to crack the AoR exam.
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Like +1 Object -0 Silly 08 Mar 18, 12:34
You do realize the topper this year is an Nlu grad? As are toppers from past years?
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Like +3 Object -0 Supreme Court Lawyer 08 Mar 18, 14:17
Then why the desperate comment about how the exam is inferior to the standards of NLU??
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Like +6 Object -1 Concerned 07 Mar 18, 13:17  interesting
A pointless exam that proves/ disproves nothing. It is practically an exam for the heck of things and should not have been there in the first place. What does it accomplish and what is so special about filing pleadings in the SC compared to other courts. Its idiotic to say that a lawyer who can sign a plaint in the high court cannot do so in appeal in the supreme court. Another instance of colonial baggage perpetuated by the uncle judges / aunty lawyers to desperately have some leverage at a time when everyone is opting for good legal advice from first generation lawyers from the NLUs.
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Like +1 Object -0 Objective lost 07 Mar 18, 17:49
Agree. The whole idea behind having AORs was to ensure that facts mentioned in pleadings are verified and Judges do not waste time in verifying facts.

I totally smirked while typing that out. What a farce it has turned out to be!
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Like +4 Object -1 ZRS 07 Mar 18, 18:59
So, any exam that some students from NLUs cannot 'crack' (unlike their one shot at CLAT entrance) are pointless .. be it Solicitors' or AoR?
Case of sour grapes??
I do not see the NALSAR topper (mentioned above) crying hoarse!!
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Like +1 Object -1 Darkseid 07 Mar 18, 20:17
I don't think the NLU Grads are superior at all over others or anything similar, but I would still be interested to know what purpose this examination serves apart from creating an artificial divide among lawyers and creating privilege that is a throwback from the times of of the British Raj.
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Like +1 Object -0 GLC student 14 Mar 18, 01:18
Definitely not an NLU student/grad, but agree that the AOR exam is mostly pointless. Just a tactic to control the supply of lawyers in the SC.

That said, comments posted here compel me to point out that critical thinking is not the sole preserve of NLUs. Nor, (I address commentor no. 7, here), are NLU grads "better".

NLU grads certainly have advantages derived from being spoon-fed for five years, which does train students to think in a certain way. If I were paying that kind of money, I'd expect such an education, too. The kids at JGLS are as good because they are put through the same rigourous curriculum.

Traditional colleges provide a different kind of value. We have a diverse crowd, and celebrate this diversity.

My 3 year LLB class has a few students from IIT, and a blind man who only speaks Marathi, (he probably gave the MU exam in that language). In a senior year, I have a prominent VC with an MBA from Stanford and a rather impressive profile on Bloomberg. We have top military officers, business people, and professionals in our class. Most of these people interact with fresh graduates/five year students as equals for the most part, allowing students to gain perspectives that NLU students can only dream of, and a network to envy.

The diversity and difference in foundational education obviously means that we have a mix of exceptional as well as academically poor students. NLUs, for all the criticism against JGLS, also consists mainly of a bunch of brats -- not everyone can pay (or get a loan for) Rs 1 lakh a year just for tuition! We pay less than Rs 7000, and still provide need based scholarships!

I am not saying that GLC students are better than NLU students; merely pointing out that the assumption that NLU students are better than the rest is delusional.

There are good students and bad students everywhere. The NLUs provide (much) better teaching and infrastructure, besides a superior pedagogy; traditional colleges provide freedom of exploration, a forced sense of responsibility, and amazing opportunities for those willing to grab them.
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Like +0 Object -1 Haha 14 Mar 18, 14:26
This is probably not the article for this but since, you have broached the topic a reply is warranted.

In my third year, when I won a top moot in GLC, one 5th year guy from GLC, who was also competing in the same moot came and told us that he could not believe third year students could make the kind of arguments that we had made and most probably our memos had been prepared by our seniors. We had a hearty laugh.

GLC is a nice South Bombay well, but a well nevertheless.
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Like +1 Object -0 GLC student 14 Mar 18, 16:09
Well, I am not from South Mumbai :)

That said, I agree that most students from GLC are from Mumbai (not necessarily South).

Also, GLC is more of an illusory well, rather than a real one. The lack of infrastructure and proper teaching/lecture suggests to most that there is no real exposure to ideas, opinions or experiences. I feel this is illusory, because opportunities to learn are rife through student hosted lectures (SPIL does a great job), internships with prominent senior counsel's just that to succeed, GLC students need an enormous amount of self-discipline and general awareness.

That's where NLUs are better for the majority of the student population -- more enforced discipline and good teaching ensures that even an idiot learns something.

As far as the "disbelief" about your arguing skills are concerned, I do think that it was meant to be a compliment, and not meant to be taken literally :)

Citing a moot win as a reason for NLU students' competence is laughable. While a factor, a lawyer is made of more than moot achievements.

I do not disagree that NLUs create decent lawyers, and that critical thinking is an important skill which is much ignored in traditional colleges, but I do maintain that decent lawyers come out of other colleges as well, and that inspite of not being taught to think critically, many students in non-NLUs learn to do so. Thus, NLU snobbery often smacks of delusion.
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Like +1 Object -2 In defence of NLUs: 08 Mar 18, 09:56
You will see few NLU grads crack these exams and judicial service exams because:

1. Very few NLU grads give these exams in the first place. They prefer to work with premier law firms.

2. The success rate of NLU candidates in these exams is actually close to 100% in the first attempt, which is phenomenal.

3. As pointed out earlier, NLU grads are trained to think critically and contextually rather than mug up from dukkis --- please see this post by a successful UPSC candidate saying that the way to learn is to memorise dukkis:

Thus, if anything, it only reinforces that NLU grads are better.
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Like +1 Object -0 Gaseous 14 Mar 18, 21:16
In my experience NLSIU colleagues were full of gas.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 08 Mar 18, 10:04
Very, very unfortunate that LI is not mentioning other NLU grads who cracked the exam (e.g. from NLUJ) and not commenting on the success rate of NLU grads as a percentage (instead of numbers) and number of attempts.

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Like +0 Object -0 Patiala Palkhiwala 09 Mar 18, 06:15
There were cluster groups found in roll number series that either passed or failed 'en masse'.

This can be illustrated as under :

Roll nos 22. 23. 24 passed

Whereas Roll Nos 1-21 barring 11 failed.

Roll Nos 34-52 barring 43 failed
Whereas 53-61 barring 57 & 58 passed

Whereas roll nos from 300-317 barring 301,303,304, 305 and 312 passed , roll nos 343 to 427 barring 346, 366 and 395 failed

436 to 485 barring roll nos 441-444 failed

Roll no 559-599 barring 573 and 574 failed

634 to 642 passed en masse whereas 643 onwards till last all failed.

Between Roll Nos 300 and 350, twenty one (21) persons passed and four qualified under R. 11(2$. Only 25 people failed. Similarly between roll no 600-650, twenty seven persons (27) passed and only 14 failed.

39 out of 125,who passed are women

7 out of 19 who cleared under R 11(1) are women

13 out of 56 candidates who made in 11(2) are women

59 out of those 206 who cleared are women.

Hardly seven out of 206 are from South India.

Out of 50 persons, on an average at least 30/40 persons failed. This is an 80% failure rate. Congrats Board of Examiners ! You succeeded admirably.

People failed by one mark? How is that possible in a subjective exam ?

Questions abound !

Four subjective question papers attempted by 650 candidates means evaluating about 2600 answer papers. Exams were held in June and results were announced only after 240 days.

How can an examiner who made the question paper, took the review lecture also value the answer papers?
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Like +1 Object -0 GLC student 14 Mar 18, 01:31
I studied at a UK university prior to my admission to GLC. Many of my classmates failed a subjective exam (it was a challenging paper with a history of students failing in large numbers every year) by just one mark. It basically comes down to whether the person who was correcting the paper felt you deserved a pass/fail or whatever class. Evil *******
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Like +1 Object -0 Patiala Palkhiwala 09 Mar 18, 06:39
A person who is being condemned or who is aggrieved by the State has a fundamental right to ensure that the principles of natural justice are complied. A person aggrieved or being condemned has the right to representation by an Advocate of his/her own choice. Such a right cannot be curtailed under Art 145 of the Constitution of India.

The Supreme Court cannot thrust an AOR upon an aggrieved or condemned person and insist that he/she must be engaged to act or appear inn the SC. The AOR regulations framed by the SC under Article 145 are "unconstitutional and against the principles of natural justice".

AOR professional misconduct is seldom acted upon by the SC even-though they are appointed as AOR's after an elaborate exercise that takes place over 24 months. Since greatest importance is given to professional ethics, SC must have a disciplinary committee that acts against professional misconduct by AOR.

Unethical nexus between AOR and senior counsels in the SC must be investigated and persons must be subjected to disciplinary action and punishment if found guilty.

Those AOR's who demand excess fees and lend their names must de-barred.

Online filing of cases must be made glitch free and anyone in the country must be able to file a case in the SC without having to goto an AOR.
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Like +0 Object -0 Mrinal Katju 10 Mar 18, 06:58
An independent and impartial set of valuers must revalue the answers of those 125 who cleared the examination and inquire if they really deserved to pass. Also the antecedents of those who passed and their connection to the staff and judiciary of the High Court in Delhi and also the SC.
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Like +2 Object -0 Lecter Manibalan 12 Mar 18, 07:42
The AOR system is like an unscalable Great Wall of China to affected parties who have to seek refuge in the Supreme Court. An affected or aggrieved party to any judicial proceedings involving his fundamental right has not only a right to be represented by an Advocate, but also one of his own choice. When an upcountry advocate appointed by an aggrieved or affected party seeks to directly act or appear he is forbidden by the regulations made by Article 145 of the Constitution of India . An Advocate on Record is a condition precedent for being represented in a case. The valuable right to be represented by an Advocate of his/her choice is what is being defeated by the AOR regimen. Whereas the Union of India is well equipped by a battery of solicitors and AORs', a citizen must engage an AOR. Typically fees ranging from 50,000/- to 2,50,000/- is demanded by an AOR. This excludes expenses and fees payable to senior counsels.
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Like +2 Object -0 Darkseid 12 Mar 18, 18:51
I would gladly beg, borrow or steal to pay the AOR fees if a single one of those vaunted senior counsels agree to give it in writing that they lack whatever the AOR must be possessing to be thus declared 'so able'. It is a simple matter, if the senior counsels can charge an arm and a leg and still not represent the client before SC, then they are the ones who should pay the AOR fees, since it's their 'deficiency' that leads to it. Do that and within a year, there will be hundreds of cases filed against the constitutionality of the AOR system, which is nothing other than artificial and discriminatory rubbish.
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Like +1 Object -0 Lecter Manibalan 13 Mar 18, 18:59
I will place evidence about fees collected by senior counsel being shared with AOR. I will place details of at least a hundred cases where senior counsels collected their fees in final disposal matters and never appeared or argued the matter. I will show you a dozen instances where AORs' goofed up on procedures that lead to dismissal of SLPs'. There are several instances where AOR has not appeared when the case is called and the court wants to seek clarifications. This syndication between counsels and the AOR will be brought to the attention of the CJI in a petition under Article 32. Watch this space.
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