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Keywords: – Kerala High Court, Enrollment Fee, Bar Council of India, Supreme Court

On Monday, the Kerala High Court issued a directive to the Bar Council of Kerala, instructing them to charge a nominal enrollment fee of Rs. 750 from law graduates who intend to enroll. This directive is in place while the Bar Council of India reviews and establishes a standardized fee structure as per the Supreme Court’s instructions.

The division bench, consisting of Chief Justice S V N Bhatti and Justice Basant Balaji, passed the order in response to an appeal filed by the Bar Council of Kerala. The appeal was against a previous order by a single judge that limited the enrollment fee to Rs. 750. The Bar Council of Kerala had informed the court that they were considering revising the enrollment fee, and the Bar Council of India had called for a meeting of all state bar councils, as directed by the Supreme Court, to establish a uniform fee for enrollment across the country. Considering this information, the court had adjourned the matter. Meanwhile, the petitioners in the case were allowed to enroll by paying a fee of Rs. 750, with the final decision pending.

The recent order issued by the Court emphasized the need for providing equal benefits to other graduates in similar situations, just like the petitioners. To prevent further individuals from approaching the Court with the same complaint, the Court directed that all similarly situated candidates should also be charged a fee of Rs. 750 for enrollment.

“To a pointed query from the Court, learned senior counsel appearing for the Bar Council of Kerala has stated that so far as the petitioners are concerned by accepting Rs.750/- enrolment fee, the enrolment of respective petitioners has been completed. In the fitness of things in the exercise of our jurisdiction, by according to the petitioners herein, the representative status to agitate the grievance for and on behalf of similarly situated graduates, who would be interested in getting enrolled on the rolls of the Bar Council of Kerala, we extend the same benefit to such of the aspirants as well. Such a course would avoid a series of individual cases by the aspirants.”

The Court was deliberating on an appeal submitted by the BCK, which contested the order of a single judge that limited the enrollment fee to Rs. 750. The BCK argued that the interim order had significant and detrimental consequences on its functioning as a regulatory body, particularly concerning the enrollment of eligible individuals as advocates on its rolls. On Monday, the BCK requested an adjournment of the matter, citing ongoing considerations by the BCI regarding the establishment of a uniform fee structure.

“Our attention is drawn to the order dated 16.03.2023 in the subsequent matter and stated that under the aegis of Bar Council of India, steps have been initiated to ensure a uniform fee structure at the time of enrolment of BL Graduates as advocates under the Advocates Act. Upon such a decision being taken by the Apex Body, the decision is placed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It is suggested that instant appeals can be considered by this court at a later point of time.” The Court stated in its order.

Previously, a single bench headed by Justice Shaji P Chaly had issued an interim order based on the High Court’s decision in the case of Koshy T. v. Bar Council of Kerala, Ernakulam and Another (2017 KHC 553). The High Court ruling stated that the Bar Council is not authorized to collect fees other than the prescribed amount of Rs. 750 unless specifically empowered by the law. As a result of this interim order, the petitioners involved in that case were permitted to enroll by paying a fee of Rs. 750.

In its appeal against the interim order, the Bar Council contended that the interpretation of the High Court judgment in Koshy T. v. Bar Council of Kerala, which formed the basis of the single bench’s order, was intended for a different scenario. The BCK argued that the said decision only limits the authority of the Bar Council to impose a “Special Fee” on individuals who enroll as advocates after retiring from service upon reaching superannuation. The BCK asserted that this ruling does not impose any restrictions on the power of the Bar Council to set conditions for enrollment under Section 28 (2) (d) of the Advocates Act, 1961.

Adv Sreekumar G, Pranoy K Kottaram and Sivaraman P L appeared for the Bar Council.

Adv. Santhosh Mathew, Maitreyi Hegde, Praveen K Joy, Amal Amir Ali, Nirmal V Nair, and Uttara P V appeared for the Petitioners.

Case Title: Bar Council of Kerala V. Aksha

Written by- Mubashara Fatima, College name- Unity PG and Law College, Semester- 6th, intern under Legal Vidhiya


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