Fresh law graduates and lawyers are outraged over a “draconian” undertaking which is required to be confirmed by each candidate appearing for the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) organised by the Bar Council of India (BCI). They are also angry over repeated increases in the fees of the examination over the years.

According to the undertaking, candidates appearing for AIBE have been barred from filing any RTI related to the examination. Candidates have also been asked to “unconditionally” agree to bear the entire cost of litigation arising out of the examination, if the candidate loses the case.

Excerpts from the undertaking which candidates appearing for the AIBE on Sunday, 3 December, have been made to sign, read: “I do hereby declare that the complete information filed by me in the application is true and correct to the best of my knowledge…. I also unconditionally agree that any or all disputes or litigations arising out of this examination would be submitted to the territorial jurisdiction of Delhi courts and if I lose the case lodged or filed by me, I shall pay the entire cost of litigation,… I undertake to abide by the decision of BCI; and for any reevaluation of answer sheet, I shall not take shelter of provisions of RTI Act ,… For redressal of any grievance with regard to examination, issuance of admit card, publication of result, I shall not make any application or claim of RTI application after 20 days of cause of action… I shall not be entitled to make any grievance after the period fixed by BCI….”

Not wishing to be identified, a law student appearing for the examination this year said, “This is a draconian undertaking that has been imposed on us. It is unlawful to bar anybody from filing RTI. This is a deliberate attempt to weaken students.”

Advocate Mohit Kumar Gupta told The Sunday Guardian, “Access to information under RTI is a statutory right and cannot be taken away by the Bar Council of India. Keeping a period of 20 days for raising an issue, is a deliberate attempt to destroy records which should normally be kept for one year for an examination that regulates the essential right to practice law. Also reimbursement of legal costs cannot be straitjacketed in the undertaking for a public (state) examination as it has no basis and such an unilateral agreement, is null and void.”

Students have also complained about the repeated increase in the fees of the examination over the years. In 2013, the fee for the AIBE was Rs 1,950. In 2014 to 2016, it increased to Rs 2,560 and in 2017, it had been raised further to Rs 3,560. 

Mannan Mishra, BCI chairman, told The Sunday Guardian, “There is a time limit for re-evaluation of the answer script and if students keep filing them for six months, we cannot entertain them. Therefore, we have made them sign that undertaking. There is a serious paucity of space and we cannot keep those answer scripts. The cost of litigation has to be borne by the students because we are a not for profit organisation and do not get any government support. We have seen students filing bogus and unimportant litigation in court for which we have to bear all the cost; therefore, if they lose the case, they will have to bear all the cost.”

Asked about the rising fees for the examination, he said, “Why don’t you ask the law universities when they increase their fees? The costs of petrol and diesel have increased, the cost of operations has increased and therefore we had to increase our fees. Whatever money is left after conducting the examination, we use it for the lawyers’ welfare.” 

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