Delhi High Court refused to entertain a plea challenging the legality of the order given. Moreover, the directions passed by the Bar Council of India to all Law Universities in the country. This was to conduct the final year law examinations through any appropriate method. Inter-mediate year law examinations would take place after the reopening of colleges (Vishal Tripathi & Ors. Vs BCI & Ors.).
Brief Facts of the Case
Two law students, Purbayan Chakraborty and Vishal Tripathi, had preferred the petition. Purbayan is a final year student at Delhi University. And Vishal, a third-year law student in Karnataka University’s five-year LLB course. The petition had challenged the BCI notification and the Delhi University Notification. This was about the conduction of online examination for final year students.
The BCI issued the 27th May Guidelines along with their Press Release dated 9th June. In addition to that, it allowed the final year law students to appear for online examination. Thus, the Universities had the liberty to adopt an alternative strategy for conducting examinations. This was for those students who were unable to give the online examinations. Therefore, for intermediate students, the Guidelines prescribed promotion based on performance. This includes marks of previous years and internal exams of the current year. It directed the Universities to conduct the same within a month of reopening of colleges.
Advocates Gunjan Singh and Pragya Ganjoo had represented the petitioners. The primary contention was that law colleges across India could not conduct classes. It was due to the effect of COVID 19. Thus, they should not hold the examination. The petitioners argued that almost 25% of law students had electronic devices.
Moreover, very few people have a proper internet connection. In addition to that, they also highlighted the suicide of a 16-year-old student in Assam. The reason was the unavailability of a smartphone. For which, he missed online classes and examinations.
Thus, the primary submission was that any direction to hold exams would be discriminatory. This would exclude the more impoverished 75% of the student population. Hence, they stated that the online classes were not freely accessible to the poor due to a lack of facilities. Therefore, these online classes are just limited to the luxurious and comfortable class of society.
Advocate Gunjan Singh argued that the BCI failed to consider the students’ difficulties. Singh stated that due to lack of classes, the changes are necessary for the conduction of exams. He advised that the final year examination must replace with internal assessment (IA).
The plea alluded to the CBSE notification which had taken similar steps. The petition also highlighted the situation in Delhi University. Here, physical copies of case material were not provided to the students.
Many outstation students were stuck in their hometowns. Thus, they had no access to the study materials. The plea prayed for a direction to plan an alternative evaluation system. The main motto was justice and exclusion of discrimination to the poor.
The Counsel for BCI was Advocate Preet Pal Singh. He stated that law colleges were free to adopt any other similar method to examine the students. This was apart from online examination. The Counsel for UGC was Advocate Apoorv Kurup. He stated that the examination was compulsory for final year students. Nevertheless, institutes got the power to decide the promotion methods of intermediate students.
A Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad was setup. The Court clarified that LL.B. students are different from the students of other courses. Observing that final year examination would test the preparation of L.L.B. students for the profession, the Court stated,
“These are professional courses… these are not undergraduate courses.”
The Court also noted that several law colleges might not even have the system of conducting IA. This was apart from national law universities. Advocate Singh mentioned that he lacks the full information on classes conducted. Furthermore, he lacks the knowledge of methods practised by all law schools in India. The Court further expressed its unwillingness to entertain the petition after this.
“We can’t do a witch hunt in respect of law colleges…Under Article 226 jurisdiction, we can’t do a roving and fishing enquiry”, the Court said.
They remarked that the SC was an appropriate forum for such a pan-India challenge. Also, one of the petitioners was of the University for which the Court lacks jurisdiction. Thus, the Court did not have the mandate to entertain the petition in its present form.
The Petitioners ultimately withdrew the petition. However, it got the liberty to approach the Supreme Court for appropriate relief.
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