‘I slept on trains’: This NLU security guard cleared AIBE, became a lawyer

Financial difficulties prevented Santosh Verma from writing the AIBE for 6 years after completing LLB. Then, RMLNLU Lucknow students stepped in.

Santosh Verma earned his LLB while working as a security guard at NLU Lucknow (Image: Santosh Verma)Santosh Verma earned his LLB while working as a security guard at NLU Lucknow (Image: Santosh Verma)

Sanjay | January 17, 2024 | 11:15 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The All India Bar Examination (AIBE) 2022 results brought a big sigh of relief for Santosh Verma who cleared it on his first attempt. It finally marked the end of years of anguish and poverty that saw him working as a security guard in various parts of Lucknow, including at the Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (RMLNLU).

AIBE 2022 was held on February 5, 2023, and the results were announced on April 28.

Clearing the bar at one go was crucial for Verma who had taken years to reach that point. He studied law at Narvadeshwar Vidhi Mahavidyalaya, Lucknow, from 2013, and earned his degree in 2016.

Acute financial distress meant he could not afford the registration fee for either the state bar council or the bar exam. His journey from graduating law to clearing the AIBE took six years.

Born and brought up in a small village in Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh, Verma started working at the age of 16. While studying law in Lucknow, he worked as a security guard in a mall and did a part-time job at a cyber cafe to support his family.

Law college, work

Verma got married in 2003 when he was just 16. He completed his schooling and graduation at SLBS College, Gonda, from where he earned a degree in political science. In 2012, he also completed his master's in the subject. But his academic career has always been distinguished by the hardship he had to face to keep going.

All through his years of study, he worked as a security guard in Lucknow – over 100 km away – first at a factory and later, when he was 18, at a mall. He would travel by train from Gonda to Lucknow for work and return to attend classes.

“My night duty at the mall used to start at 10 pm and end at 6 am. I used to board a train in the evening from Gonda to reach Lucknow and after duty hours, I would take another train to return to Gonda for college. Most of the time I used to sleep on the train. Sometimes during winters, trains would get delayed due to fog and I would miss my classes. I used to be so tired that I would sleep through the entire train journey and miss my stop. I would wake up at the last stop and miss both college and work that day,” Verma told Careers360.

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Law degree and crowdfunding

In 2013, he enrolled himself in the LLB programme at Narvadeshwar Vidhi Mahavidyalaya (NVM), Lucknow. Verma continued his studies while working as a guard at the mall and at a cyber cafe.

“I live in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, and we face many law and order problems on a day-to-day basis. One day, I came across a magazine that had an article on the marginalised community. And it is from that article that I came to know about the fundamental rights of Indian citizens as mentioned in the Indian Constitution. It got me interested and I decided to study law to know about citizens’ rights in depth,” Verma said.

From 2014, one year into his LLB programme, he started working full-time as a security guard at RMLNLU. He worked there till 2021 and then worked part-time there for another year.

“After midnight, I used to study for my LLB at the RMLNLU campus. I used to get ready in the NLU guard’s room for my classes at NMV,” he said. After classes, he would retire to his uncle’s room nearby for four hours of rest and then return to RMLNLU for work. “I also worked at a cyber cafe whenever I got the time,” he said.

Ultimately, law students at the RMLNLU crowdfunded the registration fee enabling him to write the bar exam this year.

“While I was working as a guard, I never told anyone that I was studying law at the same time. But when one of the students got to know about it, he spread the word. The students then carried out a crowdfunding campaign and helped me register for AIBE. I also managed to buy some books from my savings. And finally, I cleared it,” he said.

rmlnlu guard interview, rmlnlu lucknow, lucknow law college, rml lucknow college, aibe, aibe exam, aibe exam results, santosh verma interview, guard santosh verma interview, uttar pradesh nlu, rmlnlu, nlu lucknow, ram manohar lohiya national law university, national law university, nluRMLNLU students helped Santosh Verma in clearing AIBE. (Image: Santosh Verma)

AIBE registration

The Bar Council of India (BCI) conducts AIBE for law graduates wishing to start practicing.

The registration fee for the 2023 exam was Rs 3,250 for unreserved category candidates and Rs. 2,500 for candidates from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Registration in the UP Bar Council, a prerequisite for writing the bar exam, alone costs over Rs. 16,000.

“I could complete my LLB because I got scholarships. After LLB, I was preparing for examinations to get a government job. I couldn’t afford the AIBE registration fee and it took me six-seven years to finally write the exam. Even if scholarships help poor students complete their LLB, the AIBE fee is still unaffordable for many,” Verma said while appealing to the BCI for concessions.

The RMLNLU students had raised over Rs 20,000 and that covered both the college and AIBE registration fees.

Also read Steep bar council registration fees are driving law students away from the profession

After AIBE exam

Verma now lives in Lucknow with his wife and four daughters. He dreams of a better life after clearing AIBE.

“Now, I feel I will have a good life and all my struggles have come to an end. It took me a lot of years to become a lawyer. I am also helping other students who are preparing for the AIBE exam,” he said. He has started practicing under a Lucknow civil court lawyer.

“But I am still working part-time at a cyber cafe to support my family as I am not being paid well enough currently. At the cafe, I type court files for my senior lawyer and earn money which otherwise would have gone to others,” he said.

Verma regrets not telling anyone at RMLNLU that he wanted to be a lawyer. “Everybody should have a goal,” he explained. “One should never give up on his dreams. I never gave up even though I was on the verge of giving up. I think we should always share our problems. Sharing your woes will help you find a solution. When I shared my problems with the RMLNLU students, they helped me. If I had shared it earlier, I wouldn’t have had to wait so long.”

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