The Bar Council of India, BCI has decided to impose a three-year moratorium on opening any law colleges in the country — other than national law colleges, if proposed by state governments — to address a mushrooming of law schools across the country.
BCI, a statutory body that regulates legal practice and education in India, passed a resolution to this effect on Sunday and called for an urgent need for improving the quality of legal education.
“The Bar Council of India has imposed a moratorium for a period of three years on opening of new law colleges in the country. No fresh proposal or application shall be entertained for any new institution,” the resolution said.
The apex bar body added that it would also work on improving existing institutions, and that those without proper infrastructure or faculty would be shut.
“The idea behind the moratorium is to clamp down on the unregulated growth of law colleges across the country and also to improve the falling standards of legal education. For the next three years, Bar Council of India will lay stress on improvement of standards of existing institutions and institutions that have no proper infrastructure and faculty will be closed down,“ said Manan Mishra, the chairman of BCI.
Bar Council of India, established by an act of Parliament and exercising powers given to it under the Advocates Act, 1961, promotes legal education and lays down standards of such education in consultation with universities and state bar councils. It is also responsible for granting affiliation to all new law colleges.
Taking about the regulatory role of BCI in legal education, Mishra said, “BCI’s role is akin to the role of medical council of India (MCI). For setting up a new law college, the body intending to do so, first has to get a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the state government, followed by affiliation letter from a university. Thereafter, an approval has to be sought from BCI, which appoints a committee headed by a retired judge of a high court to carry out physical inspection of the new institute. Only after a go-ahead is received from the special committee, a new law college can start functioning. ”
The resolution expresses concerns at the falling standards of legal education in the country pointing out that there are about 1,500 law colleges in the country. “Due to lethargy of some universities and state governments, several colleges are running without a proper infrastructure. State governments seldom take interest in appointing law faculties in government law colleges and constituent units,” it said.
“There is no dearth of advocates and the existing institutions are sufficient to produce required number of law graduates annually,” the statement added.
According to data form Bar Council, there were 1.3 million lawyers in India as of 2011.
In 2016, a similar attempt was made by BCI to regulate the rising number of law colleges, and an advisory was issued to state governments and universities to not give NOCs and affiliations.
“Despite that, 300 colleges were granted NOCs and affiliations. And when BCI refused to recognise the affiliations, the institutes went to courts and got orders against us,” Mishra said. “But this time we have decided to impose a ban.”
Dr Ranbir Singh, the vice-chancellor of National Law University, Delhi, supported the move as a temporary measure. “There is no harm in having such a measure in place, considering the large number of law colleges that have mushroomed. But this has to be temporary. There is no doubt that we are having issues with legal education in the country. And when we talk of legal education, an important aspect of it is infrastructure and teaching faculty. We have seen in the past that in some states where engineering colleges have closed down, they were converted into law colleges. So the infrastructure was there, but no faculty. Faculty crunch is a big problem at the moment. Even premier institutes such as national law colleges are facing a faculty problem.”