The committee set up by the Bar Council of India (BCI) is likely to recommend sweeping changes to the Advocates Act, 1961, including giving more teeth to the Bar to discipline lawyers and regulate Indian as well as foreign law firms.
Provision to weed out lawyers whose qualifications are suspect and more will figure in the proposed reform of legal practice in India being considered by the committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge and several sitting chief justices of high courts.
The committee’s recommendations that will be forwarded to the Law Commission of India (LCI) by the year end will also include steps to bring foreign and Indian law firms under the act, which regulates legal practice in India, start a stipend for new lawyers and punitive action against lawyers’ strikes.
The Supreme Court had in July asked the LCI to suggest measures and changes to the law after it observed that the BCI and state bar councils had failed to stop professional misconduct by lawyers. The LCI wrote to the BCI asking for recommendations.
“We have appointed a committee headed by justice Shivraj V Patil which has a number of legal luminaries to study the act and propose changes at different levels including the state bar councils and district bar associations. The changes will be remarkable,” BCI chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra told Hindustan Times.
India has close to 1.2 million lawyers whose professional conduct is regulated by the BCI and state bar councils. BCI also regulates legal education in the country being pursued by almost half a million students of which 60,000 to 70,000 graduate every year.
The committee has held three meetings so far. Based on the outcome of these meetings, is it likely to suggest the changes in the bar councils and bar associations and making continuing legal education and training a compulsory part of the legal profession in India.
Currently, all that a lawyer needs is a once-in-a-lifetime bar licence to practice. The committee is likely to suggest periodic verification of the lawyer’s antecedents.
The BCI has also decided to “identify and remove” all advocates who are practising in various courts without passing an all-India level examination which was made mandatory for lawyers enrolling after 2010.