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Law colleges told to hold final exams online

Bar council order leaves students worried about Net connectivity
The Bar Council of India, which regulates law education, has asked institutions to make alternative arrangements for students who are unable to take the online tests.

Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   New Delhi   |   Published 09.06.20, 08:26 PM

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has asked all law universities to hold online examinations for final-year students in view of the pandemic, leaving students and lawyers worried about poor Internet connectivity and the sanctity of the process.

The BCI, which regulates law education, has asked institutions to make alternative arrangements for students who are unable to take the online tests. But it has not laid down what these arrangements are to be.

On May 27, BCI secretary Srimanto Sen wrote to the vice-chancellors and registrars of all law universities that the general council of the BCI had approved guidelines, in keeping with detailed guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in April, for the conduct of online exams.

“Final year students of 3 years and 5 years courses may be allowed to appear in online examinations. However, the universities must adopt an alternative strategy for conducting examination for those students who are unable to avail the online examinations for any reasons,” Sen’s letter said.

There are 1,170 law colleges in India — 807 private and 363 government-run. Nearly one lakh students graduate from these colleges every year after completing either the five-year BA LLB course or the three-year LLB course.

Nikita Banatwala, a final-year BA LLB student of the Indian Law Society Law College affiliated to Pune University, said Internet connectivity was the main concern of the students.

“Most students have gadgets like laptops or tabs or desktops. But the issue is about the quality of Internet service. It is very poor in rural Maharashtra, from where most of our students come,” Banatwala said.

She said the sanctity of the exam could also be compromised if the process went online.

“Proctoring will be difficult in online tests. Students will get greater scope to take help of websites and friends. The standard of the test will be questioned,” she said.

In her batch there are 250 students who are to take the 10th semester test. Almost half of the students have got job offers from law firms. They may still join work with undertakings that they will submit pass certificates later. But those looking for jobs or planning higher studies will need the certificate immediately, Banatwala said.

“Like many other institutions, the BCI should advise the law institutions to award grades on the basis of previous assignments,” she said.

According to the BCI’s letter, the intermediate semester students will be promoted on the basis of performance of previous years and marks obtained in internal examinations of the current year. The end semester examinations for the pre-final-year students should be held within a month of reopening of the colleges.

Lawyer Ravi Bhardwaj said the institutions should wait for the pandemic to ease.

“It is fine to say that conduct online examinations. Considering that legal education in the country is still underdeveloped, its implementation is going to be a hard task. Poor connectivity, transparency of the examination system, adaptability of the students, etc, will have to be considered. I think there is no harm in waiting for things to improve,” Bhardwaj said.

Advocate K.V. Dhananjay said the BCI did not seem to have applied enough thought to its recommendation. The BCI does not have the power to direct, it can only recommend, he said.

“Examinations at the end of each semester of an LLB course is competitive. That is, every student’s performance in an examination is judged against the performance of every other student in a group. An online examination — as suggested by the Bar Council — could invite sophisticated cheating by some students that the universities will be powerless to even detect, let alone punish the offending students,” Dhananjay said.

Students with access to people with knowledge on the subject would be at an advantageous position, he pointed out. 

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