Need for transparency, support for young lawyers holding foreign degrees, senior advocate Indira Jaising writes to the Bar Council of India

Questioning the delays in the pronouncement of results for the qualifying examination for Indian Nationals holding foreign law degrees, senior advocate Indira Jaising makes an appeal to the Bar Council of India to support young lawyers.

IN an open letter to the Chairman of the Bar Council of India (BCI), senior advocate Indira Jaising has raised certain grievances with the level of transparency observed by the BCI in its functioning. Chief among them is the delay in pronouncement of results for the qualifying examination for Indian nationals holding foreign law degrees.

The qualifying exam is mandatory for those who hold a degree in law from a BCI-recognised foreign university to commence practising in India, though only after also qualifying the All India Bar Examination (AIBE). 

The last edition of the qualifying examination for Indian Nationals holding foreign law degrees was held between December 19 to 24, 2022 after a last-minute change in the date of the exam from December 5 to 10, 2022. The result for the exam is yet to be pronounced by the BCI, despite the elapse of five months, a fact Jaising notes in her letter. 

It is her concern that after first delaying the holding of the exam, which typically takes place between July and August, the schedule was altered without providing any explanation, leaving numerous students from various cities in India, and from parts of the United Kingdom, to modify their travel and accommodation bookings. At 46, the United Kingdom has the highest number of universities recognised by the BCI.

This unexpected change incurred significant expenses for them, particularly considering that the examination dates were pushed last minute during the peak holiday season when travel and accommodation costs were much higher than usual,” Jaising writes in the letter addressed to the chairperson of the BCI. Senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra currently occupies the office of chairperson, BCI.

It is pertinent to note here that the exam can only be taken in Delhi on the premises of the BCI at 21, Rouse Avenue, Institutional Area, New Delhi. Jaising believes that the exam itself should be conducted twice a year, instead of just once.

No specific timeline has been provided by the BCI in this regard and students’ repeated requests for updates have been met with “arbitrary and vague justifications”, Jaising says in the letter. With the delay in the pronouncement of results, around 75 students have been adversely affected, it is claimed. “As a profession, we owe them an explanation and a chance to begin their careers in law.”

According to her, the inordinate delay in the pronouncement of results “severely impacts the right to practise under Article 19(1)(g)” of the Constitution. Moreover, “this situation places these students who have studied from prestigious universities in a precarious position, as they are missing out on potential job opportunities due to the uncertain nature of their status. Many of these students are holding LLM degrees and some have qualified as solicitor and barrister. Some have also undergone a conversion course for one or two years in the National Law Schools in India.”

Another concern raised by Jaising pertains to confusion surrounding the allowance of carrying ‘Bare Acts’ during the qualifying examination for Indian Nationals holding foreign law degrees. It is noted that potential exam takers were informed merely a week in advance about the permissibility of carrying Bare Acts. A notice pertaining to AIBE in February this year allowed Bare Acts “without notes” or with “short notes/least notes on the basis of prayer by some candidates”.

The BCI has displayed a lack of responsiveness and assistance,” Jaising argues in the letter, adding further that attempts by students to seek clarity from the BCI were “intentionally ignored on multiple occasions.”

On the examination fees charged by the BCI, which amounts to ₹1,50,000 per candidate, Jaising notes that the BCI is yet to provide any breakdown for the said amount. “This lack of transparency is concerning, particularly as there is no fee difference even though the majority of the students are not even classified as non-resident Indians (NRIs).”

In light of the “injustices” faced by the affected students, and in the event that the results of the examination are not promptly released, “I urge you as a responsible member of the legal profession and a concerned citizen to consider provisionally enrolling the foreign law graduates as advocates with such conditions as the Bar Council of India deems appropriate,” Jaising asks the BCI.

Making an appeal to support young lawyers, Jaising says that they have the potential to make valuable contributions to the legal profession. “It would be a disservice to lose such a valuable human resource in this manner. While acknowledging the administrative difficulties that we all may be facing, it is incumbent upon us as a profession to rise to the occasion and support these young lawyers.”

Click here to read the letter. 

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