[BCI Exam Clarification] No physical exams are to be held till physical re-opening of colleges, which should re-open only after COVID crisis is averted


The Bar Council of India was called upon by the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay at Goa, by its Order dated 29.09.2020, in the case of Siddhant Ramakant Shetye vs. State of Goa and Ors., to clarify on:

whether in terms of the rules and regulations (of BCI) it is mandatory to hold this  type of examination in the physical format i.e. offline or whether the rules permit such examinations to be held online.”

Pursuant to this call for clarification, the BCI convened a General Councils Meeting on October 5, 2020 in which a clarification was furnished.

The General Council Meeting [05.10.2020]

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By virtue of its circulars/ press releases, dated May 27, 2020 and June 09, 2020, the Bar Council of India, addressed all Centres of Legal education (including Law Schools) in India.

Circular dated 27.05.2020

This Circular stated (in para 2) that intermediate students will be promoted on the basis of performance of previous years and marks obtained in the examination of the current year. Universities were directed to conduct the end semester examination within a month of reopening of the colleges.

Clarification issued by 09.06.2020 Press Release (para 4)

All Students, except Final year students, will be promoted on the basis of performance of previous years marks and marks obtained in the internal examination of the current year. However, it is clarified that after reopening of the colleges/Universities, the Universities shall conduct the end semester examination with respect to the year from which they have been promoted, within a reasonable period of time, though, such promoted students shall continue to study in the year to which they have been promoted, and in case, they are unable to pass/clear any such paper of such end semester exam of the year from which they have been promoted, they shall have to clear the same, before they are granted the degree. In the case of students who have been promoted to the final year as LL.B students, they shall have to pass all papers in order to obtain their degree/s.”

Thus, BCI Circular/Press release made it evident that:

except final year students, examination for all students is to be conducted within one month of physical reopening of colleges when normalcy resumes and when the pandemic situation no longer exists.”

The Council, made reference to the rules of Legal Education 2008. While making such a reference, it was stated that:

(a) "these rules do not permit any examination to be held by online mode and the exception for conducting by either online mode is only for Final year LL.B students."

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(b)  "In the said resolution/circulars, the Universities have been given an alternative option to adopt any other appropriate method which they feel is adequate to satisfy the requirements of regular examination including allowing Final Year LL.B students to write a project report/research paper for each paper of final year; or"

(c) "by resorting to adopt a full proof method to double the internal marks of the semester exams already held for such year, which was a recourse to be adopted only under the extraordinary unprecedented emergent situation which has arisen due to the pandemic of COVID- 19 which necessitates social and physical distancing and resorting to various other precautions to keep the Corona virus at bay.”

These measures were described to be taken keeping in view the best interest of the final year students in mind. The purpose of conducting such exams or any alternative assessment as stated above, was to:

prevent loss of an academic session and year for Final Year LL.B due to which their future in obtaining the degrees and thereafter starting their careers by entering the profession of advocacy or otherwise would have been grossly and indefinitely delayed putting further burden on the already over burdened and stressed students due to Covid-19.The Council stated that the directions issued for promoting all students except final year students to the next year/semester ensured saving of their academic session and it was ensured that the classes for the next academic session would begin.

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The Council stated that the promoting of these intermediate student was qualified by addition of a Clause to the effect that exams should be held within one month of re-opening of Colleges, which refers to physical re-opening of Colleges, and thus it refers to exams to be held only after normalcy resumes and after the pandemic is averted.

It was also stated that:

“The Circular/Press release refers to adherence of norms of social distancing and sanitization of examination halls too. A further clause was added for all such similarly placed students, that in case, they were unable to clear any of the papers of the previous years, their promotion would not be affected but that they would have to clear all such papers which they have ben unable to give before getting their degree. This decision was taken based on the circumstances and ground realities.”

Reference was also made to the Supreme Court judgment dated 28th August, 2020, whereby it clearly gave power to respective State National Disaster Authorities in view of the pandemic to make requests for postponing of physical exams if they deem fit, which will have to be heard by the authority concerned. 

Thus, the clarification can be summarized as:

the BCI's Circular and Press Release clearly spelled out that no physical exams were to be held till physical reopening of colleges, which should only re-open after the crisis of pandemic is averted.”

LatestLaws.com is the first to raise this grave concern on behalf of the Law Students of GGSIPU. In light of this clarification from BCI, IP university must reconsider its decision to conduct offline Exams of previous semester, which have been scheduled to start from 27th October 2020. The decision to conduct offline exams will not only put health and life of law students and their family members at stake, but is also a clear violation of BCI's directives.

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