Come September, having a law degree may not be enough for aspiring lawyers to be able to don the black robe.
Following recommendations by an expert group, the Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulator for legal profession in the country, is set to make it mandatory for law graduates to pass an entry-level exam to be eligible for law practice.
The Directorate of Legal Education, set up by the BCI, has in its recommendations stated, “To ensure maintenance of standards in the legal profession, the Directorate has initiated steps to conduct a qualifying bar examination in August-September 2010. Rules have been prepared for smooth conduct of the exam.”
Directorate chief, professor V B Coutinho, confirmed the move. “The announcement is expected anytime and we hope to implement the decision within next four months,” he said.
This move follows Supreme Court suggestions, asking the BCI to raise the standards of legal education and profession. The SC had last year formed a three-member panel to look at the issue.
Solicitor General, Gopal Subramaniam, elected the BCI chairman this month, is keen to start the exam.
The government too has thrown its weight behind the BCI. “The Advocates Act, 1961, may need to be re-visited in consultation with the senior member of the Bar to consider re-introduction of mandatory apprenticeship and introduction of a qualifying exam ... before admission to the bar,” states a blueprint approved by the union cabinet in December.
Presently, a law degree from a recognised university or a law institute is the sole eligibility criteria for getting registered as a lawyer. Licences are granted by the respective state bar councils, affiliated to the BCI.
Latest figures show there are over 10 lakh lawyers in the country, registered with the BCI.