N a big relief to law students, the Bar Council of India (BCI) Wednesday informed the Bombay High Court that its decision of June 9, 2021, mandatorily requiring end term examinations to be conducted by all Law Colleges/Universities would not apply retrospectively nor would it adversely affect the results declared prior to its decision on the basis of previous semester scores, in accordance with UGC Guidelines issued in April 2020.
The submission came to be made by the BCI in response to a petition filed by one Latoya Mistral, an LLB finalist challenging the decision of the University of Mumbai dated July 5, 2021, withdrawing the semester results declared in May 2020.
According to the petitioner, the retrospective decision put in jeopardy the future of more than 20,000 incoming lawyers in Maharashtra, disrupting their jobs as well as their further education.
This decision, foisted on tens of thousands of finalists, more than a month after the completion of their degree requirements, imposed inequitable hardships, especially on those in employment, overseas or in rural Maharashtra where the digital divide and scant access to academic resources is felt most acutely.
When the matter came up for hearing for the first time on July 26, a division bench of Justices RD Dhanuka and RI Changla prima facie observed that the results which were already declared in May 2020 in respect of various semesters could not have been withdrawn and the students could not have been directed to submit assignments for the purpose of further evaluation.
The bench also recorded that the BCI and the University of Mumbai could not point out any provision permitting them to cancel the results which are already declared and directing the students to submit assignments and that also within a short span of time.
When the bench further queried the BCI’s lawyer how the results of various semesters already declared and the results having been communicated to the students could be withdrawn unilaterally with retrospective effect, the lawyer sought time to seek instructions from the BCI.
The University defended its action banking on the BCI’s circular.
When the matter came up for hearing on July 28 again, the BCI clarified that its decision of June 2021 would have prospective effect and would not affect results declared prior to the date of its decision. The University’s counsel also said that in the event the BCI expressly undertakes before the court that its circular of June 9, 2021, and its press release would have no retrospective effect, the university would have no reservations.
The high court appreciated the stand taken by the BCI and the University and closed the matter after recording their submissions.
“We hope that large number of law students who have suffered mental trauma in view of the action of the respondents would be now relieved of such trauma”, the court said.
The petitioner was represented by advocates Shashank Deo Sudhi along with counsel Sristy Jaura, and Advocates on Record at HSA Advocates, Adv. Faranaaz Karbhari and advocates Rahul Jain and Khushboo Rupani.