For the first time, All-India Bar Examination (AIBE) will be held on December 5 for law graduates taking up practice.

Law graduates intending to take up legal practice now have to pass an All-India Bar Examination (AIBE) to be conducted by the Bar Council of India on December 5. Every graduate after enrolment as lawyer in the respective State Bar Council will have to clear this examination, which will test skills and basic knowledge critical for a new entrant to the profession. It is intended to check for eligibility, rather than expertise.

Candidates may apply to appear for the examination only after enrolling as an advocate under Section 24 of the Advocates Act, 1961, and will have to submit suitable proof of such enrolment along with the application form for the AIBE.

Once in six months

The All India Bar Examination is mandatory for all law students graduating from the academic year 2009-2010 onwards. The examination will be held once in six months and anyone failing in the first test can re-appear. AIBE will be conducted in nine languages across 27 cities – Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Kochi, Dehradun, Dharwad, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jammu, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, New Delhi, Panaji, Patna, Raipur, Ranchi, Shillong, Shimla and Vishakapatnam.

The nine languages are Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya and English and the preparatory materials provided to each advocate will be in the language in which they choose to appear for the examination. An advocate will have to pay Rs. 1,300 as fees to appear for the examination, which will include the cost of receiving preparatory materials. Candidates appearing more than once for the examination will be required to pay only Rs.700 which shall not include the cost of receiving preparatory materials.

Candidates will be free to choose an examination centre of their convenience. It will be conducted by the Bar Council of India with the cooperation of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The last date for submission of application form is October 31, 2010. Preparatory materials in nine languages will be provided to all candidates. Application forms along with an instruction sheet are available with all State Bar Councils and at the Bar Council of India, New Delhi. Candidates can also apply online for the AIBE through www.barexam@barcouncilofindia.org. The Indian legal profession consists of approximately 11 lakh registered advocates, 1,000 law schools and five lakh law students. Every year, approximately 60,000 law graduates join the legal profession.

Opposition

However, final year students strongly opposed the BCI's decision to introduce examination for fresh graduates to enable them practice in courts. Students' organisations argued the decision had been taken in haste. They said that for improving any profession, there needs to be systematic planning and consultation. A consensus should be formed before implementing any such important decision, which affects lakhs of law students across the country.

They said that the final year students passing out in June 2010 will be jobless till the Bar examination results are declared. As per the present curriculum, all students have completed the three months' compulsory internship and secured pre-placement orders. Unfortunately, after the examination was announced, many companies, law firms and offices were revoking their offers, citing the examination and there was no guarantee that they would get back the placement offers after January 2011, they said in a representation to the Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily.

The methodology

According to the Bar Council of India, the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) will have 100 multiple-choice questions spread across various subjects. The subjects are taken from the syllabi prescribed by the Bar Council of India for the three-year and five-year LL.B. programmes at law schools in India (as set out under Schedule I to the Bar Council of India Rules).

These subjects are divided into two categories: the first comprises subjects that may be considered ‘foundational' in nature, those that form the basis for large areas of law; the second comprises other subjects, which a new entrant to the legal profession must also have a basic understanding of. Schedule I to this document contains the list of subjects that will be tested in the AIBE and the weightage ascribed to each of these areas.

The AIBE shall be structured with multiple-choice questions (that is, the correct answer will have to be marked out in the Optical Mark Recognition (‘OMR') format answer sheet provided, and no writing of an answer will be required.)

These questions will be divided into ‘knowledge-based' and ‘reasoning' questions, and advocates will be allowed a maximum of 3 hours 30 minutes to complete the examination. The emphasis throughout is on assessing an advocate's understanding of an area of law, rather than on the ability to memorise large texts or rules from different areas of law.

The examination will be ‘open-book', which means that advocates may bring in any reading materials or study aids that they choose, such as the preparatory materials provided, textbooks and treatises, and even handwritten notes. Advocates may not bring any electronic devices such as laptop computers, mobile phones, or any device equipped with a radio transceiver (such as pagers) to the examination centre.

The results generated after the answer scripts are corrected will simply state whether an advocate has or has not qualified for practice (that is, whether the advocate has passed or failed the examination). No percentage, percentile, rankings, or absolute marks will be declared.

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