NOTICE ISSUED BY KARNATAKA HIGH COURT ON PLEA TO DISCONTINUE MOOT COURTS & INTERNSHIPS DURING COVID-19
– Vijpreet Pal
(Gautam R v. Bar Council of India).
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy has issued a notice to the Bar Council of India (BCI), the state government and University Law College, Bangalore (ULC, Bangalore) in a plea seeking to do away with compulsory clinical courses such as Moot Court exercises and internships for law students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plea filed by final year students of ULC Bangalore states that Schedule II of Part IV of the BCI Rules outline the academic standards and courses that a legal institution is required to impart. Part II (B) under Entry 6 of the said Schedule provides for “Compulsory Clinical Courses”, which includes moot court exercises and internships.
The plea states, owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, completion of these courses would be impossible for students as courts and lawyers’ offices are currently shut. In fact, the Karnataka High Court had issued an SOP ordering that litigants/outsiders would not be permitted to enter court premises, the plea contends. It was further informed that even chambers of lawyers and law firms were reluctant to offer internships, keeping in mind social distancing norms. Based on the Rules framed, the University had made it mandatory for all final year students to engage themselves in pre-trial and trial proceedings for which they would be assessed, says the petition.
“That being the case, irreparable damage will be caused to the mobility of the students and masses considering 60 marks are at stake. That failure to complete the supra stated Clinical Course would render the course incomplete leaving the mobility of the innocent students to wait indefinitely for the society to return to normalcy to receive the certification of law graduation.”
Adding on, the petition highlighted that such inordinate delay in finishing the LL.B. course would adversely affect future prospects of the students. This, in turn, would violate rights guaranteed to students under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution to practice any profession, business, or trade of their choice. The plea also seeks a direction to the BCI to frame appropriate rules compensating for the aforesaid courses with respect to the academic year 2019-2020 and conduct exams for the same via online means in an effective and time-bound manner.
Therefore, on these grounds, the petition prays that compulsory clinical courses such as Moot Court and internships be discontinued for the time being. The matter will be next heard on July 8.