In the case of Anuj Aggarwal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court confirmed the legitimacy of the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), which law graduates must pass in order to be permitted to practice before courts.
According to a Constitutional Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, AS Oka, Vikram Nath, and JK Maheshwari, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has sufficient authority to conduct the exam.
We are thus of the opinion that while considering the questions referred to us, the only conclusion which can be laid is the judgment of this Court in V Sudeer on the powers of BCI cannot be sustained and we cannot hold that it lays down the correct position of law.
The Court stated regarding whether the AIBE should be held before to or after enrollment:
The effect of this would be that it is left to the BCI as to what stage the AIBE is to be held – pre or post enrolment. There are consequences which would
Further The court held that
We are inclined to accept the suggestion of the Amicus that the students who appeared in all examinations to be eligible to pursue the final semester of the final year. On production of proof , they could be allowed to take AIBE. The result of AIBE would be subject to the person passing all components of college examination.
The Bench further observed that, more frequently than not, a gap existed between completing a law school exam and the start of enrollment. The law graduate would be able to perform any legal-related responsibilities during this time, with the exception of representing clients or making arguments in court, it stated. It also demanded that a suitable rule be drafted stating that an enrolled advocate who begins working in a non-legal setting for an extended length of time will be judged to be a new enrollee and will need to take the AIBE exam again.
Even if a person has a law degree, it does not mean that his ability to asssst the court would continue with them if there are long hiatus period of time in some unconnected job.
The Bench also demanded uniformity in the test price structure because different State Bar Councils had varying fees. On September 28, the Supreme Court announced that it had reserved its decision in a case challenging the legitimacy of an exam that law graduates must pass in order to practise in court.
The Court considered whether Rules 9 to 11 of the Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules were legal because they broke the Advocates Act’s Sections 16, 24, and 30, as well as Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. Every advocate must pass the AIBE in order to practise under Rule 9. Rule 10 permits the BCI to administer the test, while Rule 11 covers the process for issuing a practise certificate.
The following inquiries were for the Bench’s consideration:
(1) Whether Pre-enrolment training in terms of Bar Council of India Training Rules, 1995 framed under Section 24(3)(d) of the Advocates Act, 1961 could be validly prescribed by the Bar Council of India and if so whether the decision of this Court in V. Sudeer vs. Bar Council of India & Anr. [(1999) 3 SCC 176)] requires reconsideration?
(2) Whether a pre-enrolment examination can be prescribed by the Bar Council of India under the Advocates Act, 1961?
(3) In case questions Nos.1 and 2 are answered in the negative whether a post-enrolment examination can be validly prescribed by the Bar Council of India in terms of Section 49(1)(ah) of the Advocates Act, 1961?
Justice Kaul made an oral statement during the hearings that the Bench would work to improve the AIBE’s current organisational structure. He had also suggested that the number of enrolled advocates needed in the nation should be taken into account while determining the AIBE’s difficulty level. The judge had emphasised that the exam should be of sufficient quality to assess the competence to practise since it set the minimal standard required. He even urged that the BCI conduct research in this area.
In order to save time, the petitioners’ legal counsel advised allowing undergraduate students to take the exam during their last year of law school.
Then-Indian Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal had contended in the case that it would be more suitable to perform the AIBE prior to enrolment rather than after enrolment.
Senior Advocate KV Viswanathan also participated in the case as an Amicus Curiae, in addition to Venugopal. Manan Kumar Mishra, the BCI’s chairperson and senior advocate, served as its representative.
The petitioners’ advocates Kartik Seth and VK Biju were present.