It is a frequent misconception that getting a legal degree entails reading heavy volumes of books and staying up late memorising various portions of the law. While this is somewhat correct, students must also obtain practical knowledge and experience in order to survive in this increasingly competitive economy. The extremely competitive atmosphere of Indian legal internships operates without any judicial or statutory oversight, making it a breeding ground for exploitation. In conjunction with rule 25, of BCI, the recently published National Education Policy 2020 commands experience in professional disciplines like law. In the battle to finish 20 weeks of internship, legal professionals are often exploited by their elderly individuals physically, emotionally, and sexually.
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE LAW INTERNSHIPS
A student who has a good deal of understanding of legal academics may not necessarily have the same expertise in real-life circumstances. Practically integrating their academic knowledge and abilities, the interns are provided for students with practical experience. The internships serve to educate students in the many elements of practical law and expand their understanding.
Depending on their areas of interest, there are a large number of internship possibilities that students can select from. These include interning under an attorney, law firm, or even a government organization involved in a legal field. Students might also opt to work with a research group or any other legal entity.
BCI RULES REGULATING INTERNSHIPS IN THE LEGAL FIELD
Most people are unaware that the Bar Council of India (BCI) has mandated that every enrolled law student undergo a minimum internship program before graduation. Students who follow LLB’s three-year course should complete a least 12 weeks of internships, whereas BA-LLB students of five years must complete a minimum of 20 weeks of internship.
The BCI has also defined the conditions for students to begin the internships programs. Students may start their interning with a non-governmental organisation, before progressively going to district and high court, then enter the last phase of the degree program with legal firms. Moreover, in the first year of their studies students are required to begin so that they may gain maximum practical exposure and experience during their graduation process.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HARASSMENT OF INTERNS
The term “harassment” refers to a type of discrimination. Any unwelcome physical or verbal behaviour that offends or humiliates you is included. It encompasses a wide variety of offensive behaviours. This behaviour is often characterised as being a disgrace, humiliation, or embarrassment to a person; its illogical social and moral reasonability characterises this behaviour. Such behaviour has an impact on a person’s physical and mental well-being.
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act includes (legal) interns in the definition of “employee.” However, it is vitally important to lay protection rules for this largely unregulated and exploited legal sector in a field in which trainees are often abused and just employed to transport files and coffee bugs. In order to provide a healthier working environment, the increasing incidence of suicides among young staff needs particular care for their physical and mental wellbeing.
Unpaid internships allow wealthy individuals who do not have the money for rental, food or transportation to be paid. This cycle is ongoing, allowing affluent students to take advantage of an opportunity others apparently can’t afford. Unfortunately, in India, the legislation and the courts failed to grant statutory protection to legal interns. Unlike in the UK, the US, and Canada, unpaid internships that provide employers direct advantages are permitted in India.
Includes no rights of a legal intern making them vulnerable to the exploitation of the mind and the economics, as set forth in the Act on minimum wages, 1948; Employee Compensation Act, 1923; Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; Payment of Wages, 1936 or Bonus Act, 1965.
THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MYTH
Registered law students have a minimum internship term of 12 weeks for a 3-year course stream and 20 weeks for a 5-year integrated course, according to the Third Schedule of Part IV of the Rules for Legal Education of the BCI, Indian Bar Association, and Rule 25. While the BCI Rule does not specify which law school students should practise in India, most colleges and legal institutions in India demand that students practise in the Supreme Court or High Court in advocacy practicing. Universities demand such expenditure to include a great deal in the food, transport, and accommodation of interns who seldom receive any monetary aid from their legal firms.
By means of a Suo motto, the Justice Bench Siddharth Mridul and Najmi Waziri ensured that the Bar Council of India and the college of law jointly would be in charge of providing all law students with equitable internship opportunities to satisfy the need for BCI internships. Although the judiciary recognised that the BCI rules for the internship of law students are totally outdated and need modifications, it has failed to accept the necessity to provide money to the underprivileged students to provide equitable internship opportunities for all.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CERTIFICATE IS DENIED?
How would you feel if after your blood and sweat investments for 30 days you were refused your internship certificate?
Regrettably, internships are mainly uncontrolled in India, as there is no legislation or legal norms to safeguard an intern’s rights. Most organisations, lawyers, and government entities do not offer an internship agreement and operate only in the event of an infringement, based on oral commitments. An intern can best remedy his or her application in the disciplinary committee of the State Bar Association for complaints against such lawyer(s).
After hearing the issue, the Council of State Bar may determine the matter in accordance with section 35 of the Act. If this verdict exacerbated the parties, within 60 days after the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of India, they shall be allowed to appeal and within 60 days they may appeal to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
Labour rights and the “Culture of Internship” Don’t go hand in hand. Specialised legislation outlining the function of an “intern” and its rights is essential in order to prevent the growth in unpaid internships and infringing copyrights on interns. Allowances should be granted to enable equitable chances for internships for marginalised students. Adequate authorities should be established to oversee internships, deal with complaints, and guarantee that rules are complied with to avoid staff from becoming precarious without legal protection.
Author’s Name: Dharna Sahu (NMIMS, Bangalore)
 Rule 25 of the Bar Council of India “prescribes that every registered law student is required to intern during the academic year. They shall complete at least 12 weeks of internship for three-year course and 20 weeks of internship for five years of course.”
 Rule 25 of BCI.
 Rule 25 of the Bar Council of India “prescribes that every registered law student is required to intern during the academic year. They shall complete at least 12 weeks of internship for three-year course and 20 weeks of internship for five years of course”.
 They shall be granted the right to appeal, and may appeal to the Supreme Court of India within 60 days following a judgement by the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of India.