The Supreme Court mooted on Tuesday an idea to have an entrance test for law graduates before they are enrolled into bar councils and get a licence to practice.
The suggestion was prompted by worries over fake advocates and ‘falling standards’ in the fraternity.
A bench headed by chief justice TS Thakur strongly disapproved of the existing system under which the BCI, the apex disciplinary body for lawyers, holds an exam after a law graduate gets registered. The bench was of the view that once a person gets the right to practice, it cannot be curtailed later in the name of an entrance test.
“The right to practice law is a fundamental right for an LL.B degree holder once he or she gets registered with a state bar council. But, this exam (to get certificate for practice) negates the very right because you hold the test for a lawyer after he acquires the right to practice his profession,” the CJI told the BCI counsel.
The court said it was concerned with the decline in quality of lawyers entering the profession and favoured an exam. But, the question is at what stage. The CJI felt it should be before the registration and asked the BCI to come back with its response on Wednesday.
The BCI recently revealed that 30% of advocates in the profession are unqualified. The disciplinary body has introduced rules to verify the antecedents of existing lawyers to weed out fake ones.
The bench questioned the BCI rule under which a lawyer can appear in courts if only he clears the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), an open court test. The rules mandate that a registered advocate has to pass the exam within two years of getting the licence from a state bar council.
BCI has defended AIBE, saying it is conducted to “assess skills at a basic level, and is intended to set a minimum benchmark for admission to the practice of law.