The Bar Council of India (BCI) has told the Supreme Court that it has earmarked about 500 law colleges throughout the country which are sub-standard/below standard and a team led by some former judges/senior advocates and others plans to conduct surprise visits of such establishments and in case of any deficiencies, steps would be taken for their closure.
In an affidavit filed in a matter related to reforms in legal education and placements of young lawyers, the BCI said that it is constituting a high powered committee that would look into the issue of compulsory chamber placement of five juniors by senior advocates or advocates having 25 years of standing at the Bar.
The council said it is proposed that the legal education committee of the BCI and the advisory board would consider introducing a State Level Entrance Test for admissions to law colleges in its next meeting.
It said, “the appellant (BCI) has earmarked about 500 institutions throughout the country who are sub-standard/below standard and a team led by some former judges/senior advocates, noted academicians and plans to conduct surprise visits of such institutions and if any institution is found to be below standard, having neither the sufficient faculties nor infrastructure then the Legal Education Committee shall take immediate step to close such institutions”.
The BCI said that it is not an executive body and relies upon the universities to close such colleges and/or upon the government to close such universities which despite the requests have been casual on the use of unfair means in LLB/LLM exams and awarding the LLD.
“Thus as a last resolve the BCI is considering withdrawing the approval granted for running courses of legal education to such university”, it said and pointed out a slew of difficulties faced by the council in regulating legal education across the country.
It said that almost 90 per cent of the government-run colleges/institutions have an acute dearth of infrastructure and faculty, many unfilled vacancies last 15-20 years, and in spite of requests/warning the state governments/Universities are not serious in this regard.
“The standard of the legal profession has a direct bearing with the standard of law teaching and it was because of this reason that the council proposed to scrap the system of one year LLM course because one LLM was/is proved to be only an ornamental degree. In fact, It was/is not even one year, rather it is only a nine months course”, it said.
The BCI said that in India it is most unfortunate that only a few universities show a keen interest in the research works in the field of legal education, which is in fact most ignored and neglected.
“The University Grants Commission (UGC) has never extended adequate financial assistance to Centres for Legal Educations (CLE) for this purpose. It is due to the reason that our students are attracted to other countries for higher legal education and for enhancing their knowledge”, it said.
Regarding placements of young advocates, the BCI said that it would write to the state Bar councils asking them to ensure chamber placement for young law graduates, and if juniors get more and more placed, under senior designated advocates and advocates with sufficient practice, it will be good for the profession.
“The Appellant (BCI) is constituting a high powered committee to check the legal and constitutional validity of compulsory chamber placement with senior advocates or advocates having 25 years of standing at the Bar for young law graduates or to a fair system for juniors to find placement in chambers. Upon reaching the conclusion on how to implement this issue each such advocate shall be requested to engage at least 5 such juniors in their chambers”, it said.
The council further said that it is also planning to frame rules for online objective tests of the subjects studied during the LLB degree course with more emphasis on major laws, which are required for practice will have to be undertaken by fresh law graduates in order to determine their legal aptitude, which they can take online from anywhere.
“The results of the online tests shall be valid for a period of six months. On the basis of the results of these tests, meritorious junior law graduates who have freshly obtained enrolment shall get placement under senior advocates or advocates having 25 years of standing at the Bar”, it said.
The council said that other junior advocates shall also get placement under advocates having 15 to 20 years of experience and the council would request all such advocates throughout the length and breadth of the country to co-operate and contribute in this regard.
The BCI said that at present the state government and the government universities grant affiliations to the colleges casually, without any verification of the information supplied by the institutions and it is required to approve the affiliations granted to the law college by the concerned universities.
“A more monitored process by the appellant (BCI) would ensure that a law college which obtains recognition once, does not rest on that and is required to maintain the parameters as set forth by the Bar Council of India”, it said.