In its maiden endeavour of conducting a law entrance examination with the objective of recruiting the brightest students, the state of Maharashtra conducted a Common Entrance Test (CET) as opposed to the earlier years wherein board marks were taken into consideration for admitting students into the five year and three year law course; the state found this novel step to being fraught with controversy and uncertainty.
On one hand, whilst the constitutional validity of the CET was challenged in itself, the Bar Council of India (BCI) dropped another bomb. Subsequent to the CET results being declared and ranks allotted, the Bar Council of India sort to withhold the inclusion of the top Mumbai law schools in the eligibility list and barred them from accepting applications.
Some of these colleges comprise Government Law College, Mumbai (GLC), G.J. Advani Law College, Bandra; Kishinchand Chellaram Law College, Churchgate; and Jitendra Chauhan College of Law, Vile Parle. The Bar Council of India alleged that the colleges did not have adequate infrastructure and did not meet the required student teacher ratio.
The BCI’s allegations have been deemed to be fairly vague and unjustified. This decision has received major backlash from city colleges as well. As a student of Government Law College, Mumbai (GLC), I can affirm that the physical infrastructural requirements of the colleges are more than satisfactory and the alleged skewed student-teacher ratio has never affected the regularity of classes or the academic performance of students. The BCI student teacher requirement ratio of 1:40 released only in 2014 is in fact not commonplace in most law institutions in the country.
Moreover, these colleges are state run colleges which depend upon sanctioning of posts by the government and such decisions are not directly within their autonomous authority. This decision of the BCI has resulted in an extreme and inordinate delay in the admission process in the state of Maharashtra.
Law aspirants are highly disappointed and furious with the said decision. Yash Shiralkar, a student presently enrolled in St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai, who took the exam and ranked second in Maharashtra CET says, “I have been pretty restless for the past few months now and this has gravely affected my academic performance at St. Xavier’s college, which has already begun and has had its unit tests since I’ve been anticipating admission into GLC. The whole process has been extremely disappointing. I only intend to take admission into a reputable institution like GLC. If GLC is barred, top ranking students like me are not interested in enrolling in other law institutions.”
Another such aspirant who appeared for the CET stated – “It’s really confusing, we have no idea what to do. They cannot possibly put so many careers at stake. The CET schedule has also been subject to constant change. This has been nothing but thoroughly depressing especially for students like me who are solely relying on CET allotments and not seeking backup.”
BCI has failed to realise the wide scale repercussions of its decision. Firstly, the career of thousands of students is at stake which in itself cannot be considered to be something expendable since these colleges together comprise over a thousand seats. Secondly, law aspirants have resorted to seeking admissions in other institutions in the state as backup and most of these institutions are soon to hold mid-terms.
The Bar Council of India, while may have the intention of enhancing legal education standards, imposing such norms at this critical stage seems dubious and blatantly unfair. This decision has left law aspirants in nothing but agonising wait and despair.
It is a well-known fact that the aforementioned colleges which have been subject to such dire scrutiny are rather in a much better condition than most other colleges in remote parts of the city. The latter in fact would be incapable of meeting BCI requirements.
Furthermore, Government Law College still remains the most sought after college in the city and despite BCI’s allegations, the college has produced greatly equipped lawyers even in the recent past. Ironically, the Bar Council of India website reads – “In existence since 1855, the Government Law College (GLC), Mumbai is unarguable giant in Indian legal education. The college has the honour of being the alma mater of a host of people who would leave an undeniable mark in evolution of the nation. The college is known for an active student life and college teams have a consistently exemplary record in many sports.”
Keeping aside the wrangle between the law colleges, Bar Council of India and the State of Maharashtra, the primary consideration has to be accorded to the aspiring students who worked extremely hard and wrote the test with the intention of getting into a well-acclaimed law school. The BCI should’ve ideally raised whichever concerns it had prior to the admission process and not in the very midst of it. The aspirants are in deep angst and the top priority of the Bar Council and the state of Maharashtra should be rendering expeditious admission to students in the institutions. The colleges will have the option of seeking judicial remedy but this will only result in additional delay and will compound the worries of students.
It is in the best interest of thousands of students that the Bar Council of India should nod approval to these colleges to admit students and start their program. The BCI ought to realise at the earliest that this quarrel is affecting several innocent students for no fault of their own.