The Supreme Court on Friday held that the Bar Council of India (BCI) is vested with the powers to prescribe qualifications and requirements for an advocate seeking enrolment with State Bar Councils [Bar Council of India vs Rabi Sahu and anr].
In view of the recent decision of a Constitution Bench of the Court in Bar Council of India vs. Bonnie Foi Law College & Ors., a bench of Justices Vikram Nath and PV Sanjay Kumar upheld the rule framed by the BCI that requires candidates seeking enrolment as advocates to have completed their course from recognised law colleges.
“The Constitution Bench held that the BCI’s role prior to enrolment cannot be ousted and the ratio decidendi in V.Sudeer (supra), that it was not one of the statutory functions of BCI to frame rules imposing pre-enrolment conditions, was erroneous. It was categorically held that Section 49 read with Section 24(3)(d) of the Act of 1961 vested BCI with the power to prescribe the norms for entitlement to be enrolled as an Advocate… Viewed thus, the rule framed by BCI requiring a candidate for enrolment as an Advocate to have completed his law course from a college recognized/ approved by BCI cannot be said to be invalid, as was held in the impugned order”, the bench observed in its judgment.
The judgment was passed on an appeal moved by the BCI against against an order of the Orissa High Court that had directed the respondent in the case to be enrolled as an advocate even though he had graduated from the Vivekananda Law College at Angul which was an unrecognised institute.
The High Court in September 2012 had allowed the plea moved by the respondent and restrained the BCI from imposing any additional conditions for his enrolment.
The plea dealt with the question of whether the BCI has the power to regulate matters regarding the educational qualifications of advocates prior to their enrolment.
The top court noted that the Orissa High Court had relied on the dictum in V. Sudeer vs. Bar Council of India & Anr.
However, the constitution bench judgment passed earlier this year had held that the judgment in V Sudeeer was not good law.
The Constitution bench judgment held that the BCI has wide-ranging pre-enrollment powers.
Considering this fact, the Supreme Court allowed the BCI’s appeal and set aside the decision of the Orissa High Court.
“We, therefore, have no hesitation in holding that the Division Bench was not justified in directing the enrolment of respondent No. 1 as an Advocate, despite the fact that he secured his law degree from a college which was not recognized or approved by BCI,” the judgment stated.