Online open-book examinations, assignment-based assessments and promotion based on performance in previous semesters, Law colleges and universities are adopting all the possible measures for evaluating students.
After the Bar Council of India (BCI)’s exam guidelines of 2020 were challenged in the court, it has decided not to issue any uniform set of instructions for intermediate or final year LLB exams this year. The Council in its latest announcement stated that “universities, centres and law schools should conduct examination for intermediate and final year law students as per their discretion, depending upon the availability of resources and the impact of COVID-19 in that region.”
While some institutes have conducted the exams for LLB students in April-May, many universities have them scheduled in June. There are some universities that have taken the liberty to devise their evaluation mechanisms.
Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Punjab, will hold the exams from July 1 onwards. “While the exams will be conducted in online open-book examination (OBE) mode, the question pattern has been changed this year. Students will be assessed based on application-based questions. The university has its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage online examinations,” said Naresh Kumar Vats, Professor of Law and officiating registrar of the university.
RGNUL has already evaluated students for 20 marks through assignments and the exams will be conducted for 40 marks, which will be extrapolated to award the remaining 80 marks of the total 100.
The National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) University of Law, Hyderabad, has already completed the assessment for its students and it did not conduct any annual examinations this year. Students were evaluated based on two assignments of 25 marks each and internal tests of 50 marks.
“Unlike last year, we were prepared for no physical assessment. The internal tests were conducted in April and those students who did not have a laptop or stable internet connection were allowed to come to the campus and appear for the exams. But universities that have a huge student population are unable to conduct online exams smoothly due to lack of digital infrastructure available for every student,” said V Balakista Reddy, professor of law and registrar, NALSAR.
Reddy added that there should be uniform guidelines as universities can sometimes misuse freedom. “When several patterns are being followed, there are chances of discrepancies and releasing results on time is a challenge. Students often face issues with the next steps in their career due to delayed results,” he said.
At Hidayatullah National Law University, Chhattisgarh, exams concluded on May 31 and were conducted via SACE (Special Assignment of Critical Essays) for the past two semesters. “Students were given analysis-based questions in advance and they had to answer them within the stipulated time. The answers are then run through Turnitin to detect plagiarism,” said Madhur Bhat, who is enrolled in BA LLB (Hons) course at the university.
On the other hand, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) is conducting exams while keeping provisions concerning special cases. “Online OBE are being conducted from June 5 to June 29. It is not possible to have uniform strict guidelines, especially amid Covid. Students from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) face issues with connectivity as the internet is snapped anytime. Similarly, weather conditions and calamities such as the Yaas cyclone also impact digital resources. The university has provided an option for such students to appear for offline exams when the situation becomes conducive. Some students are also being assessed based on assignments,” Eqbal Hussain, dean, Faculty of Law, JMI, told indianexpress.com.
Some universities have been unable to conduct exams during the pandemic and promoted students to the next semester based on past performance and assignments.
“The earlier guidelines stated that students should be promoted and offline exams should be conducted when possible. Exams for LLB fourth semester have not been conducted yet. For the fifth semester, OBE online exams were conducted in December 2020 and the results were declared in May 2021. Now, the sixth-semester exams are to be conducted from June 15 onwards, but we still have no clarity over the previous exams. There must be uniform rules as we are neither being helped through UGC guidelines nor through the BCI notification,” Heena Sharma, final-year LLB student, DU.
National Law University (NLU), Lucknow, is conducting online exams with 70 marks being allotted to written examination, 20 marks to a project (for each subject) and 10 for the presentation of this project. During the first phase of lockdown, sixth semester exams were not held and students were evaluated based on a composite scheme i.e. 50 per cent marks from the internal assessment and 50 per cent marks for previous performance. Then a year later, the exams were conducted in January 2021.
“There were no guidelines provided by the BCI this year due to the fact that when they did last time, a number of complaints were raised. Due to this, our university was the last body we could appeal to in terms of any changes in the arbitrary system of conducting examinations, but since they did not have to answer to BCI or adhere to any of their guidelines, it essentially gave a free pass to our universities, even NLUs such as ours, to operate in an opaque manner with no redressal system,” said Ayesha Zaidi, who is currently in the fifth year of BA LLB (Hons) degree at National Law University (NLU), Lucknow.