Bar Council wants a dress code for law students

By Gargi Verma

The Bar Council of India has serious concerns regarding the professional experience imparted by the various law colleges and university in the country. In a letter dated April 7, the Council has addressed the various principals and registrars of all law colleges and universities in the country. The letter deals with the issue of necessitating dress codes in colleges and encouraging a regular moot court attendance.

The letter by Ashok Kumar Pandey, Joint Secretary of the Bar Council of India addresses two issues, one of the moot and the other, a raging issue a few months ago, about dress codes. His letter quotes the Legal Education Committee’s decisions and recommendations made in October 2015. Sources believe that the letter has been sent to reaffirm the Bar Council’s position with the law colleges. “The council is not exactly happy about the lack of hands-on experience the law students get. The dress code has been a burning topic since some time now,” said an official at the Maharashtra Bar Council.

The Legal Education Committee had decided in October, at the behest of the Madhya Pradesh bar council, that while the universities and colleges have the right to decide if they wish to impose a dress code on the students, they would recommend a dress code of white shirt and black/grey/brown trousers to the universities. While most of the universities ignored the guidelines, some decided to implement a specific dress code for events.

However, in April, National Law School of India University (NLSIU) Bengaluru had an incident where a professor had commented on the shorts worn by a female student. “The comments made were sexist and hurtful. Many of us wear shorts everyday to college, but Professor V Nagaraj made hurtful comments, causing aspersions on her character,” said a third year student of NLSIU. Many believe that this incident made the Bar Council resend the letters, asking them to reconsider the dress codes in their colleges. The letter reads, “It has been found that the standard of dresses by the students of law all over the country is detracting and which does not give impression of proper dress code discipline especially for the professional education.” It further recommends, “The matter is left to each university/college to decide in respect of dress code what is feasible befitting the profession in this regard. It would be preferable if the college followed dress code of white shirt with trousers (white/black/grey).”

Regarding Moot sessions, the letter reads, “It has been repeatedly communicated by various orders to all the law colleges through circular that each college must communicate to the Bar Council of India how many times the school have participating in moot court during each semester.” While some colleges have certain rules making a number of moots for the students compulsory, many leading colleges keep moot sessions a voluntary activity.

According to law students across the country, while moot sessions provide enough practice and experience, they are a burden on the course work and even the students’ pockets. “While college does not force us to participate, there aren’t enough cookie points for the students who actively participate. Their attendances or even cost of travel are not compensated. This makes Moot sessions a troublesome affair and not something we look forward to,” said Chetan Priyadarshi from the ILS Law College Pune.

While the institutes in Pune have denied receiving such a letter, the students, when informed are not too happy with it. An ILS student, on condition of anonymity, said, “Uniforms have never been a must. Of course every college has their own dos and don’ts, but they have never been a unified code. It is a form of oppression, in a way.” An NLSIU student supported this, by stating, “We are supposed to concentrate on studying. Why make compulsions when they are not necessary? Moots have always been voluntary and students generally take active participation in it.”

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