Anyone in a black coat can’t become a lawyer, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, making a case for allowing only meritorious people in the “overcrowded” legal profession.
The top court’s observation came barely two weeks after a group of lawyers allegedly assaulted the Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar at the Patiala House Courts during a hearing on a sedition case.
“Nobody can be allowed to wear a black coat and carry on with other business,” a bench headed by chief justice of India TS Thakur said adding that the legal profession can’t be taken for a ride.
The bench is hearing a petition challenging the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) conducted by the Bar Council of India (BCI). Clearing the exam entitles a person to practice law.
The Supreme Court bench referred the matter to a three-judge bench and hinted at appointing an amicus curiae (court’s friend) to assist it in the case.
“It’s time for you (lawyers) to reform your profession. We need to have a strong system wherein everyone in black coat can’t become a lawyer,” the court said adding that too many lawyers have turned the profession “overcrowded”.
“The system is crying for reforms.”
The CJI also found fault with the current system that allows lawyers to practise directly in the top court and said it was necessary for an advocate to start from a trial court before elevation to the apex court.
“Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you become (an) advocate. If you cannot have a half-way doctor, you cannot have a half-way lawyer. Administration of justice is as important as treating a patient,” the court said.
The bench argued in favour of law graduates taking an examination before they get a licence from a state bar council.
At present, people are granted license before they sit for the AIBE, introduced in 2010. The BCI says the exam assesses skills at a basic level and is intended to set a minimum benchmark for admission to the legal profession.