Supreme Court constitutes committee headed by retired Justice Deepak Gupta to verify degree/ law certificates of lawyers; weed out fake ones

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The Supreme Court Monday constituted an 8-member committee headed by former apex court judge Justice Deepak Gupta to monitor the process of verification of lawyers’ certificate of law practice other education/ degree certificates.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala passed the order on a plea by a practicing lawyer Ajay Shankar Srivastava challenging an office order of BCI to all State Bar Councils, the effect of which was to interdict the process of verification of advocates.

Besides Justice Gupta, the committee will comprise retired Allahabad High Court judge, Justice Arun Tandon, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, Senior Advocates Rakesh Dwivedi and Maninder Singh and three members to be nominated by the BCI.

“All universities and exam boards shall verify the genuineness of degrees without charging fees, and requisition by State Bar Council shall be processed without undue delay. We request the committee to start work in a mutually convenient date and time and status report be filed in August 31, 2023,” the Court ordered.

In 2015 the BCI notified the BCI Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules 2015. The process of verification of advocates from their place of practice was undertaken by SBC and BCI. Rules challenged before several HCs and a transfer petition was filed before the Supreme Court by the BCI.

The proceedings before High Courts were transferred to the top court.

The BCI later constituted a high level committee to spearhead the verification but the process of verification encountered difficulty due to charges being demanded by universities to verify the degrees certificates issued by them.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court later prohibited levy of such charges.

The Court in its order today noted that the number of advocates stood at 16 lakh at the relevant time but it is currently estimated to be 25.70 lakh.

“The reply by BCI indicates the position with regard to verification of enrolled advocates state wise. Seniors and AoR had to submit declarations and 1.99 lakh declarations were received. This indicates that the majority of advocates enrolled with State Bar Councils is yet to submit their verification forms and BCI apprehends many are not qualified to practice law and many are there for extraneous purposes and that such persons have to be identified and be weeded out,” the Court noted.

It underlined that due verification of advocates registered with State bar Councils is of utmost importance to safeguard the integrity of administration of justice and the court system.

“Access cannot be granted to the judicial process to the persons profess to be lawyers but do not have educational qualification or degree certificate on the basis of which they could be given entry to the bar,” the order said.

Thus it is duty of all genuine lawyers to cooperate in this process of having their degrees verified and unless this exercise is carried out periodically, the administration of justice would be under a serious cloud, the Court underlined.

BCI chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra told the Court that the object of the BCI office order to State Bar Councils was not to stop the verification process but to ensure that verification is not on the basis of certificate of practice alone but also took into consideration the validity and genuineness of degree certificates as well.

The BCI chairperson suggested a high power committee to monitor the verification process which the Court accepted.

Advocate Amit Pawan appeared for the petitioner.

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