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"Welfare of law students is also a matter of public interest", Karnataka HC in plea seeking relaxation of BCI Rules during COVID-19

The Court was hearing a plea seeking to do away with compulsory clinical courses such as Moot Court exercises and internships for final year law students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Bar Council of India (BCI) today informed the Karnataka High Court that it has constituted a sub-committee to decide whether the existing BCI Rule pertaining to marks for Moot Court exercises could be relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic (Gautam R v. Bar Council of India).

The Court was informed of the new development when it took up the plea seeking to do away with compulsory clinical courses such as Moot Court exercises and internships for final year law students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advocate Sridhar Prabhu, appearing for BCI, also informed a Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice HP Sandesh that the University Grants Commission (UGC) had mandated that all final year exams will have to be conducted by September end.

However, a plea has been instituted before the Apex Court challenging the above UGC direction and the matter is likely to be heard on July 27, said Prabhu.

"Suppose Hon'ble Supreme Court was to say that final year exam cannot be held at all, then this petition need not be adjudicated", submitted Prabhu.

Taking note of this, the Court said,

"...if Supreme Court does not interfere (in plea against conduct of final year exams in September), then this issue (of canceling compulsory clincial courses for final year law students) will have to be immediately addressed by Bar Council."

Karnataka High Court

Further, the Court was informed that BCI is contemplating whether universities can be given liberty to frame their own guidelines or otherwise.

On hearing this submission, the Court asked,

"What is the legal position today? In absence of BCI granting relaxation, can the universities do it?"

During the hearing, Prabhu further contended that the petitioners are final year students and certain prayers directly affected them. Therefore, in this view, he argued that the same may not be treated as PIL.

Though it allowed the above submission, the Bench went on to opine,

"Welfare of law students is also a matter of public interest as far as the institution of Judiciary is concerned."

Karnataka High Court

As the hearing drew a close, the Bench directed the the petitioner counsel to implead Karnataka State Law University (KSLU) as a respondent in the plea.

The matter will be next heard on August 11.

Earlier, the Court had directed the BCI to clarify whether law universities could be permitted to modify the existing provision regarding assigning of marks for Moot Court exercises without amending the BCI Rules.

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