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Exclusive: A GLC professor has challenged BCI’s “revived” age-limit (again)

Anuj Agrawal

The Common Entrance Test for Law in Maharashtra has seen multiple rounds of litigation, repeated delays, threats of college de-affiliations, and a recently “revived” age limit for enrolling in law courses. The last one is now the subject of a PIL before the Bombay High Court. For the second time.

Yasmin Tavaria, a part-time professor at Government Law College and GLC graduate, has filed a petition in the High Court against the re-introduction of Clause 28 of the Legal Education Rules of 2008.

According to this rule, the maximum age limit for being admitted to the five-year and three-year law course is twenty and thirty years respectively. This “revival” took place less than ten days ago, with the BCI writing to the country’s law schools on September 17 this year.

BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told Bar & Bench that the BCI would stick by the rule even though there had been appeals to grant an exemption for this academic year. This Indian Express report quotes a BCI member as saying,

“We will not allow anyone above the prescribed age limit to enroll with the BCI for practice. They can, however, take admissions to gain knowledge.”

Tavaria is no stranger to Clause 28; in 2009 she had gone to the Bombay High Court against this very rule. Her petition was one of several petitions filed in different High Courts, and is a significant part in the convoluted history of this controversial rule.

A part time professor at Government Law College, Tavaria enrolled for the law course when she was thirty-eight years old. After filing the petition today, Tavaria plans to appear in person; the PIL is likely to be heard this Friday in the Chief’s court.

“I have fought [against the age limit] for seven years, and I am not going to stop now.”

Meanwhile, the confusion arising out of various flip-flops on policy have also led to varying responses from the CET cell itself. This can be clearly seen via a CET notification issued on September 18, and another one on September 20 that makes no mention of the age limit at all.

And, as is usually the case, it is the students who have been left high and dry. At least one law college, the AKK New Law Academy in Pune, has not confirmed the admission of a student who does not meet the age limit criteria. The letter, signed by the Dean of Law at the Savitribai Phule Pune University, Dr. Rasheed Shaikh states that,

“As the Bar Council of India vide letter no BCI:D:1519(LE:Cir.)-6 dated 17/09/2016 has instructed Principals of all Law Colleges to comply the Clause 28 of Rules of Legal Education 2008 regarding upper age limit. You are hereby informed that your admission in our college is not confirmed.”

Worse, the age limit is not be the only issue. Another problem is connected with the reservation of seats, more specifically the 30% horizontal reservation for women in all educational institutions in the state.

In fact, this particular aspect was brought to the notice of CET Commissioner Chandrashekhar V Oak. Aspiring law students, Aditya Roongta, Ashutosh Paibhale, and Abhiraj Shivdas met Oak and apprised him of the situation on September 16. Although Oak said that this would be looked into, the published results show otherwise.

Since the first round of allocations, things have just gotten worse. The second round of allocations continues to make the same mistake vis-a-vis reservations. Worse, students who have already been allotted seats in the first round have find mention in the second list as well.

The fact that these issues are cropping up even as admissions continue only further complicates matters. An interim order of stay for instance, would mean further delay and confusion. With the BCI unwilling to back down, and colleges left in the lurch, it is the students that are paying the ultimate price.

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