KARACHI: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is set to hold the Law Graduate Assessment Test (Law-GAT) next month for the registration of candidates as lawyers across the country, amid concerns expressed by the legal fraternity over a delay in regularly holding such an important exercise in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines, it emerged on Sunday.
In 2021, the HEC had conducted Law-GAT only twice in violation of the Supreme Court’s directive that the test be held quarterly.
HEC has held Law-GAT since 2018 after the Supreme Court tasked it with reviewing the eligibility of new law graduates wishing to register to become members of the legal fraternity.
Previously, provincial bar associations held examinations to grant licenses to practice law, but the Supreme Court removed their role to ensure proper examination and assessment of law graduates wishing to join the profession.
HEC said that under the permission of the Bar Council of Pakistan, the country’s supreme body for lawyers, it was conducting Law-GAT on February 20 in several cities, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan, Bahawaplur, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Abbottabad, Quetta, Turbat, Muzaffarbad and Gilgit.
HEC will organize the first Law-GAT of this year on February 20; he only took the test twice in 2021
The HEC said it is conducting Law-GAT in light of the Supreme Court’s March 6, 2018 ruling to ensure proper consideration and assessment of a law graduate wishing to join the legal profession so that only a competent person with the necessary basic knowledge of law can enter the profession to practice law.
The assessment test is organized by HEC pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court and under Section 26 (cc) of the Solicitors and Bar Counsel Act 1973 and PBC Rules.
Senior Barrister Haider Imam Rizvi, who is a member of the Sindh Judicial Commission and former Deputy Chairman of the Sindh Bar Council (SBC), said that as per the supreme court order, the eligibility criteria to appear in Law-GAT were at least 50% graduation exam marks.
He said the Supreme Court ordered HEC to conduct Law-GAT on a quarterly basis, but the test was conducted twice in 2021 under the pretext that the coronavirus pandemic caused a delay in the registration of young lawyers. .
SBC Executive Committee Chairman Arif Dawood was of the view that the HEC was not implementing the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit because Law-GAT was not conducted every three months.
He maintained that the Supreme Court set 50 points for the syllabus, but HEC reduced it to 40-45 points on a few occasions when many questions in the exam held in May and October 2021 were off-curriculum.
He said the SBC highlighted these issues during a recent meeting of all provincial bar councils held in Islamabad.
In 2018, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court led by then-Chief Justice Main Saqib Nisar in its judgment, written by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, decided that the Law-GAT for graduates in right wishing to register had to be held on a quarterly basis. by the HEC as the implementing institution throughout the country on the basis of a bank of questions prepared for the assessment test.
The court observed that the legal profession has attracted more and more people as a career of choice, which has led to a growing demand for institutions providing legal education.
For 45 years, competence for admission to the bar has been regulated by the 1973 Act, but careful monitoring, supervision and enforcement of standards has been lacking due to complacency and negligence, according to the order.
Law schools around the world are striving to achieve higher standards of legal education to deal with the complexity of legal relationships and issues that arise in an increasingly integrated global society and marketplace, but the Pakistan’s case is different as there has been a major decline in the standard of legal education for various reasons cogently explained in an earlier Supreme Court judgment handed down in 2007, he added.
In the judgment, the Supreme Court approved nearly all of the recommendations made by a special committee, appointed by the Supreme Court, on structural reforms in legal education with minor modifications.
The order further stipulated that a Law Admission Test (LAT) for all law schools in Pakistan was also to be conducted every two years by the HEC.
It also banned admission to the three-year LLB program and ordered all law schools and institutions to offer a five-year LLB program from September 2018.
The supreme court had also banned the holding of evening classes in all law schools and universities in Pakistan and further banned the conduct of LLM and LLD courses by those universities/colleges/institutions which were not licensed to organize LLB courses.
Posted in Dawn, January 31, 2022