The fight for the control of legal education courses being run in 913 colleges, 260 universities and 14 national law schools across the country has turned into a turf war between the ministries of Law and Human Resources Development (HRD).
The apex regulator for legal profession and education in the country, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has objected to the inclusion of legal education under the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER).
Through the NCHER, the government aims to set up a super regulator, which would subsume existing regulatory bodies such as UGC, All India Council for Technical Education and National Council for Teachers Education to bring transparency in regulating higher education.
Following the cabinet’s approval, HRD minister Kapil Sibal had introduced the bill to create NCHER in the Rajya Sabha on December 27. “This Act shall apply to all the higher educational institutions and universities other than those institutions engaged mainly in agricultural education and research,” states the bill. The HRD ministry had overruled the objections raised by the law ministry on the issue before the matter went to the cabinet last month.
“To meet the emerging challenges of legal profession and education, a separate independent and specialised body is required. The law ministry is working towards that and had assured the parliament in this regard ” stated a ministry note signed by law minister Salman Khurshid on December 11.
In its reaction to the development, the BCI said: “It is a serious matter and we view it as an encroachment on our powers. The HRD ministry should have taken us into confidence,” said BCI chairman Ashok Parija.
“All option are open. We will first talk to the law ministry, which is our administrative ministry and if required, a call for a nationwide action, including a strike is not ruled out,” Parija said.
The HRD ministry has a different take saying many law colleges were being run by universities and excluding them from the ambit of the proposed council would have defeated the purpose of having a uniform regulator for higher education.