While adjudicating the Amity Law School case, where students were debarred from sitting for exams, the Delhi High Court brought up some critical issues over BCI’s powers on the issue
~By Rajesh Kumar
As aspiring lawyers, they could not have hoped for a better start. Three students pursuing a law course at Amity Law School, which is affiliated to the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha (GGSIP) University, were detained and prevented from writing their end-semester examinations due to shortage of attendance. GGSIP had earlier directed all its affiliated colleges to publish the list of students detained in a given semester due to shortage of attendance at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the end-semester examinations.
The applicants, who are BA LLB students, have alleged in their petition before the Delhi High Court that they were unable to meet the attendance criteria because the college concerned had not held the mandatory number of classes as prescribed by the University and the Bar Council of India (BCI). They have pleaded that the reasons for preventing them from sitting for the examinations was not only vague and cryptic, due to lack of any scientific and cogent reasons, but also illegal as they were regular students and not to be blamed for insufficient attendance. They also stated that the said infractions on part of the Amity Law School were brought to the attention of the University, but to no avail.
In addition, the applicants also pointed out that the concerned law school was in violation of Rule 10 of the BCI Rules, which stipulates that the law school was statutorily obligated to conduct at least 648 hours of class over a period of 18 weeks during a semester of the dual degree integrated course. However, in the applicants’ ninth semester, the law school only conducted 151 hours of class over a total of 69 working days.
Of the 648 hours, 540 were to be dedicated to in-class lectures, whereas 108 hours were to be dedicated to tutorials, moot court exercises, seminars, etc.
It was further contended that the law school is statutorily obligated to abide by the BCI rules and conduct the mandatory number of class hours prescribed by the same. It miserably failed to do so, and has only conducted about 35 percent of the mandatory prescribed class hours, the applicants pleaded.
The University contended that an expert committee constituted after hearing not only the affected students but also the representatives of the law school, with reference to its report dated February 21, 2018, found that as per its academic calendar, classes were to be conducted for a period of 15 weeks beginning from August 1, 2017, to November 10, 2017. Therefore, based on its aforementioned findings, the committee, vide its report dated February 21, 2018, made the following recommendations:
That the Respondent No. 2, i.e. Amity Law School, Delhi, must give attendance for vivas and two internal examinations and that the same should be followed in future as well.
That Respondent No. 2 should organise special classes for seven days including moot courtroom exercises, tutorials and practical training conducted in the subject. Six classes may be held each day. These classes would take care of loss of attendance for seven days when classes were not held after November 3, 2017, as per the academic calendar notified by GGSIP University (Respondent No. 1). This should be done as soon as possible as some students may lose their chance for higher studies.
The attendance should be given only for class lectures and moot court exercise, tutorials and practical training conducted in the subject and not for any other activity like sports, dance, drama, preparation of an activity, photo session, etc. If any policy is formulated which is not strictly covered in these activities, prior written permission should be obtained from the Bar Council of India (Respondent No. 3) as also GGSIP University.
That the academic calendar notified by GGSIP University be strictly followed in letter and spirit including timely notification of attendance to the students and its communication to the University.
That the results of the end-term examinations held in November-December 2017 for ALSD (Respondent No. 2) students should not be declared till the students have complied with the attendance requirement prescribed under BCI rules, as pointed out in the above recommendations.
Justice Rekha Palli of the Delhi High Court formulated three issues while passing the judgment. These were:
(i) What is the Bar Council of India expected to do when its recognised law colleges do not abide by the Rules of Legal Education, Bar Council of India Rules, and do not hold the mandatory number of class hours prescribed thereunder?
(ii) Does the Bar Council of India have the power to conduct suo motu inspections of centres of legal education under the Rules of Legal Education, Bar Council of India Rules, so as to ensure compliance of the said rules by law colleges and universities across the country?
(iii) Does the Bar Council of India have the power to make ex-parte observations in respect of a University’s specific findings with regard to its affiliated colleges?
The High Court concluded that the BCI, which is an expert body comprising distinguished legal experts, will give its thoughtful consideration to the aforesaid issues and take pro-active measures to monitor the standards of legal education being maintained by accredited law colleges/universities across the country.
The Court allowed the application with a direction to the university and college to conduct within ten days, seven days of extra classes/tutorials for all those students desirous of attending the same. It is further directed that, within five days of the conclusion of the aforesaid extra classes/tutorials, the college and university shall provisionally recalculate the attendance of the students for the ninth semester on the basis of the recommendations made in the expert committee report of February 21, by including the attendance for the extra classes/tutorials.