The Bar Council of India (BCI), in its latest notification regarding the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) XVI, allowed candidates to use Bare Acts with comments/short notes. The bar examination was held on October 31. Earlier, aspirants could only take bare Acts without any notes with themselves while appearing for the open book exam.
Why are bare Acts of great importance?
To understand laws and be able to practice as a lawyer, it is important to understand the bare Acts as it is the exact text of a particular enactment by the legislature. Future lawyers have to thoroughly understand a law or section, for which they require a reference book to understand it better.
Bare Acts are like reference books for lawyers that they also use while practising. These are published by several publishers and often add additional details as ‘comments/notes’ for aspirants to understand the application and the cases where it has been applied so far. But, bare Acts with commentary were not allowed to be taken in the exam hall.
Quality of question paper is a concern
Srikrishna Deva Rao, vice chancellor of National Law University (NLU), Delhi, says that exams are a way of testing the application of knowledge and India’s bar exam must be compared with foreign countries to maintain global standards.
“The concept of an open book exam has always been there in the law qualification exam. BCI must put in efforts to prepare question papers that keep up with the difficulty level as bare Acts with notes will help candidates. However, the time of competitive exams is not enough that students can look up the answer to every question in the bare Acts. So, the whole case balances out to some extent,” Rao says.
BCI said that the decision was taken after concerns were raised by some candidates about the unavailability of bare Acts without comments. “Having considered the difficulty faced by the candidates, they are hereby allowed/ to use bare Acts having short note/comments (not detailed comments) as are readily available in the market during the AIBE XVI,” the council stated in its official statement.
Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO of LawSikho – an online education company that offers advanced and practical legal courses, says that allowing bare Acts with comments has reduced the difficulty level of the exam.
Covid impact on the bare Acts publishing industry
“Publishers face tough competition and want to sell maximum bare Acts; hence, they try to add maximum information for better understanding. Earlier, students had to buy two bare Acts – one with comments to study and without the comments for exams. The pandemic has hit the industry badly which has created a scarcity of the acceptable bare Acts,” says Mukherjee, who is an alumnus of the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.
Knowledge about application of laws is crucial
Advocate S Prabhakaran, who currently practices in Tamil Nadu, says that the move can help aspirants perform better in the exam.
“By reading the comments in the bare Acts, students can get some idea about answering the MCQs in AIBE. It may become easier for students to qualify the exam but if they do not have a thorough understanding, then they will not be able to become successful lawyers. There is a scarcity of bare Acts without comments in the market but we need to focus on the academic loss that covid has caused.
A recent graduate from the GGSIP University, Sudhanshu Kathuria says that the focus of the bar exam is to test if the candidate has the basic knowledge of the law.
“Bare Acts with commentary are not going to have any effect on the difficulty of exam or aspirants performance. The questions in the bar exam are pretty direct and do not require the interpretation of the law. The bare Acts that are now allowed in the exam are the ones used in the courts as well,” says Sudhanshu, who plans to appear for the AIBE next year.