Legal education needs full revamp: Supreme Court

By, New Delhi
Mar 18, 2022 01:25 AM IST

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh flagged concerns over the quality of legal education, highlighting a spate of issues that, it said, plague the legal profession.

The Supreme Court has pushed for a “complete revamp” of the legal education system in the country and recommended that the Bar Council of India bring in a slew of reforms -- starting from the standards being followed by law colleges to placement of young law graduates.

SC asks Bar Council of India to bring in a slew of reforms. (AFP)
SC asks Bar Council of India to bring in a slew of reforms. (AFP)

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh flagged concerns over the quality of legal education, highlighting a spate of issues that, it said, plague the legal profession.

We're now on WhatsApp. Click to join.

“Be it the Bar entrance exam or accountability of law colleges that have mushroomed in the country... you (BCI) have problems on many fronts. You need to maintain certain standards at every step,” the bench told BCI’s counsel, SN Bhat, during a hearing on Tuesday.

It remained emphatic that the standards of legal education would not improve until BCI, the apex regulatory body for the legal profession in India, tightens the yardstick in examinations, maintains more stringent control at the entry level, and ensures constant monitoring of law colleges to ascertain a particular standard of education.

“What you need is a complete revamp,” said the bench, as it heard an appeal by BCI against an order of the Gujarat high court, which allowed a woman to enrol as an advocate without quitting her job through an order in November 2020. BCI argued that the decision would open the floodgates for such requests, although the rules specifically state that nobody can enrol as an advocate while being gainfully employed in another job.

The bench recorded in its order four questions that BCI needs to deliberate upon and come back with categorical replies by April 12. The court order, elucidating the four questions, was released on Thursday.

The first question pertained to BCI rules prohibiting anybody employed in another profession to be enrolled as a lawyer. Asserting that a balance needs to be struck between the right to practise a profession and the requirement to monitor the legal profession for its better ethics, the bench asked BCI to consider if it could allow even those gainfully employed in some other professions to sit for the Bar exam.

The bench, taking a cue from the suggestions given by senior counsel and amicus curiae KV Viswanathan, said that the result of a Bar exam may hold good for a period of three years, enabling a person to decide whether they want to quit the other job for getting the registration as an advocate.

Asking BCI to consider this proposition, the court underlined that it becomes a “difficult decision of economic necessity” when BCI rules mandate a person to first quit the job and then take the Bar exam for registration.

The second question by the bench was related to “the desirability of having better accountability from law colleges on account of their growth and the absence of requisite faculty.”

It held that stricter monitoring by BCI would be required to ensure that a law college, which obtains recognition once, does not rest on that, and that it consistently maintains the parameters as set forth by the regulatory body.

The court also lamented the standards of entrance examinations for law schools, stating: “In order to make it more meaningful, the exam process can be one to test the skill and knowledge of a practitioner of law in a better manner, not necessarily based on a rote ability, but on an analytical thinking process.” It referred to Viswanathan’s submission that in the UK, law entrance exams are based on a “Miller Pyramid Scheme” of evaluation in all aspects of reading, writing, expression and communication of a prospective Bar entrance is evaluated.

The fourth question by the court expected BCI to come up with suggestions on how to evolve “a fair system” for juniors to find placement in chambers. “We desire and expect the Bar Council of India to act with expedition in the aforesaid process despite the large number of tasks to perform. Thus, instructions must be obtained by Mr Bhat, the learned senior counsel, after appropriate meetings of the Council before the next date of hearing,” said the court order.

According to BCI statistics, there are around 1,500 law colleges across the country, with private colleges making up for 75%. In August 2019, BCI imposed a three-year moratorium on opening new law colleges, resolving it will stress upon improving standards of existing law colleges. The moratorium however, was not applicable to establishing a new National Law University if a state proposed it.

As per BCI data, there are 1.7 million registered lawyers in the country and 80,000 to 100,000 new advocates get enrolled annually.

During the last hearing of this case on January 24, the bench had rued that “anti-social elements” were graduating with a degree in law without attending a single class, as it urged BCI to refrain from lowering the standards of entrance exams for law schools.The bench had then emphasised that although BCI is authorised under the law to prescribe criteria for admission to law schools and enrolment of lawyers in the country, the current situation requires an intervention by the top court.

Manan Kumar Mishra, senior advocate and chairman of BCI, said that the Council is cognisant of the concerns expressed by the Supreme Court. “We have called for a meeting of office-bearers on March 22 where all issues will be discussed. We will respond to the court suitably following our deliberation,” he added.

"Exciting news! Hindustan Times is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!
Get Latest India News along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, October 04, 2023
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals