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The Bar Council of India (BCI) is entrusted with the authority to set qualifications and standards for an advocate seeking registration with State Bar Councils, the Supreme Court said on Friday in Bar Council of India vs. Rabi Sahu and others.

A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and PV Sanjay Kumar upheld the BCI rule requiring candidates seeking enrolment as advocates to have completed their course work from recognised law colleges in light of the recent decision of a Constitution Bench of the Court in Bar Council of India vs. Bonnie Foi Law College & Ors.

“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 Orissa High Court had ordered the respondent in the case to be enrolled as an advocate despite the fact that he had graduated from the Vivekananda Law College at Angul, which was an unrecognised institution. The BCI had appealed against this order.

In September 2012, the High Court accepted the respondent’s plea and prohibited the BCI from placing any other restrictions on his enrolment. The argument focused on the issue of whether the BCI has the authority to control issues pertaining to advocates’ prior educational backgrounds. The highest court acknowledged that the Orissa High Court had cited the ruling in V. Sudeer v. Bar Council of India & Anr.

The constitution bench decision from earlier this year, however, had ruled that the judgement in V Sudeer was not sound precedent. According to the Constitution bench ruling, the BCI has extensive pre-enrolment powers. Given this information, the Supreme Court upheld the BCI’s appeal and vacated the Orissa High Court’s judgement.

“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 recognised or approved by BCI,” the ruling read.

Attorney Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad spoke on behalf of the Indian Bar Council.

Written By- Aditya Singh, College Name- Army Law College, Pune, Semester- 2nd Semester Student an intern under Legal Vidhya


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