Fresh law graduates do not need to worry much about the proposed entry level mandatory exam they need to pass to be eligible for legal practice in courts.
The Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulator for the legal profession, will allow the candidates to carry books inside the examination hall for the much anticipated exam.
The lawyers body has also made it clear that only the fresh law graduates, that is the students graduating in law during the academic session 2009-10 and later, need to pass the exam.
Those who have obtained law degrees prior to the current academic session, but did not enroll themselves as lawyers for any reason, need not pass the eligibility test.
"There will be no retrospective implementation of the decision. Those already having law degrees do not need to pass the exam for getting the BCI license," the council said.
BCI chairman and Solicitor General, Gopal Subramanium, said the decision to have an "open book" All India Bar Examination was taken with the intention to gauge the legal understanding of prospective lawyers rather than having a routine exercise.
"The exam will be conducted through multiple choice questions and candidates will have to choose the correct answer from among the five options. They will be free to bring in any material they choose," Subramanium said.
The BCI has also not ruled out the possibility of allowing the candidates to use mobile phones during the exam, "though a final decision in this regard is yet to be taken."
The exam will be conducted in nine languages — Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu. It will be conducted at 25 centres across the country, twice a year.
The tentative date of holding the first ever entry-level exam for lawyers is December 5. It would, however, be subject to the outcome of cases filed in various high courts challenging the BCI move to introduce the exam.
The BCI received a shot in the arm on August 2 when the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by a law student in Delhi against the exam. The apex court on August 5 also transferred all the petitions filed in different high courts to the Delhi high court for a final decision.
At present, a law degree from a recognised university or a law institute is the sole eligibility criterion for getting registered as a lawyer.
There are a million lawyers in the country, according to the latest figures.