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Testing time for law graduates

R. RAVIKANTH REDDY

The Bar Council of India has decided to introduce a test for law graduates intending to take up legal practice.


“The examination will definitely serve as an effective filter and only those serious about taking up practice will take it.”


PHOTO: P.V. SIVAKUMAR

TURNING POINT: The student community is divided over the BCI decision to hold

Fresh law graduates have to get their knowledge tested before the judges test their skills in the courts. Established lawyers and law teachers are wholeheartedly welcoming the new move by the Bar Council of India to introduce a test for the law graduates who intend to take up legal practice.

Though it might hurt non-serious students who just want the brand of an advocate, a vast section of legal fraternity feel it will be in the interests of serious students and the profession itself. And they say it will not be a test of expertise but basic knowledge needed for a new entrant to the profession.

“The test will definitely help in improving the standards and the litigant public will benefit,” says G.B. Reddy, Associate Professor of Law and former Principal of College of Law, Osmania University.

“It's a welcome step,” says A. Narsimha Reddy, chairman, Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh. Everyone in the profession wants standards to be improved and most graduates from law colleges in Andhra Pradesh are not up to the standards. We have been crying hoarse about the quality since a long time and also insisting on quality during college inspections. The test will also help in improving the standards in colleges,” he says. He reminds that even the Supreme Court has called for reforms on several occasions.

If the senior lawyers are all for it, the student community is divided on the issue.

“When the colleges are giving a degree after a thorough examination of knowledge and some scrutiny where is the need for a test,” asks a final-year student. “In fact, only 20 per cent of the law graduates actually enrol for practice now. There is a dearth of lawyers and this move will drive budding lawyers away from the profession,” he says.

“The examination will definitely serve as an effective filter and only those serious about taking up practice will take it, says Raghav, who has just completed his LLB,” he says. Dr. G.B. Reddy reminds that such tests exist in most of the countries. The American Bar Association conducts a similar test and many of their graduates qualify only after three or four attempts. The Law Society of England also follows a test and it has helped in improving standards.

Major hurdle

But the major hurdle in implementing the new decision may come from the legal fraternity itself. The Supreme Court has earlier struck down some reforms on the ground that the Bar Council of India did not have the powers to introduce such changes. Earlier decisions like restricting the age to 45 years for enrolment and mandatory apprenticeship of one year for every graduate were disallowed by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Narsimha Reddy says the Advocates Act 1961 should be amended in such a way that courts cannot interfere with the proposed test. “There should not be any legal lacunae,” he says. “In fact, the BCI has informed us about its intention to discuss the issue with all the Bar Councils in the country and we will take up such issues at the meeting.” The proposed test will be in the form of an open book system and advocates say such systems exist in other countries too.

“Even if they are permitted to take books to exam hall they have to study to find correct answers to questions,” is their argument. Apart from the test there is a strong demand from the advocates' community to have a compulsory apprenticeship for two years for all new entrants as they feel such training will help them grasp the skills of advocacy.

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