The Supreme Court has stayed an Orissa High Court judgment restraining the Bar Council of India (BCI) from imposing any condition for enrolment as an advocate, including the one that a law student must have graduated only from a recognised law college.

In this case, the respondent Rabi Sahu obtained a law degree from a law college whose affiliation was cancelled by the BCI. When he wanted to enrol as an advocate, he could not do so and he moved the High court which held that the BCI could not frame any rules and add any conditions for enrolment in addition to what was prescribed under Section 24 of the Advocates Act.

The BCI challenged this judgment in a special leave petition and this came up before a Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and J. Chelameswar. Senior Counsel Abhishek Singhvi, M.N. Krishnamani, BCI Chairman Mannan Kumar Misra and BCI member S. Prabhakar assailed the impugned judgment.

Mr. Singhvi told the Bench that the High Court had erroneously interpreted that the BCI had the power to inspect only the ‘university’ and not ‘affiliated colleges.’ He said when the Advocates Act was enacted, there were no private law colleges and only universities were imparting legal education, but now several private law colleges had come up too.

Mr. Krishnamani said, “The recognition is granted by the BCI after being satisfied that the institution has all the facilities for imparting legal education which can be done only after inspection by the BCI and not by the university, which only affiliates the institution.”

Mr. Prabhakar submitted that the BCI had derecognised 48 law colleges and if the impugned judgment was allowed to stand then all these colleges would claim parity and seek affiliation. Mr. Misra explained how the BCI was taking steps to improve legal education through five-year courses.

Justice Lodha asked the counsel, “How many members are there in Parliament? The Advocates Act requires amendment and the world ‘university’ can be amended [to include institutions also].”

Justice Chelameswar said, “If somebody pilots the Bill, it will be passed in no time.” The Bench then stayed the impugned order and issued notice returnable in 10 weeks.