Under the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), the National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) to regulate the entire higher education sector including teachers’ education. The NEP 2020 excludes medical and legal education from the purview of NHERC. Thus, medical council to be regulated by the Medical Council of India and the legal education will be regulated by the Bar Council of India.
NEP 2020 says that the legal education needs to be competitive globally, adopting best practices and embracing new technologies for wider access to and timely delivery of justice. At the same time, it must be informed and illuminated with Constitutional values of Justice – Social, Economic, and Political – and directed towards national reconstruction through instrumentation of democracy, rule of law, and human rights. The curricula for legal studies must reflect socio-cultural contexts along with, in an evidence-based manner, the history of legal thinking, principles of justice, the practice of jurisprudence, and other related content appropriately and adequately. State institutions offering law education must consider offering bilingual education for future lawyers and judges – in English and in the language of the State in which the institution is situated.
- Whether Bar Council of India has Power to Regulate Higher Education in Law
As per the BCILE Rules 2020, Yes. However, it seems that the BCILE Rule 2020 derive their powers from the Advocates Act 1961 and the NEP 2020, neither of them specifically empower BCI to regulate the higher education in law. The BCILE Rules 2020 were notified in view of Sections 7(1)(h), (i); (ia); (ib); (ic); (2)(b); (c); 15(1); 49(1)(af); (d); (e) of the Advocates Act, 1961 with a view to strengthen legal education at each level of undergraduate, post graduate, legal research, technology & court management, continuing legal education and professional and clinical skill development courses conducted off-line and on-line.
Let us look at these relevant sections of the Advocates Act 1961-
Sec. 7 (1)- The functions of the Bar Council of India shall be–
(h) to promote legal education and to lay down standards of such education in consultation with the Universities in India imparting such education and the State Bar Councils;
(i) to recognise Universities whose degree in law shall be a qualification for enrolment as an advocate and for that purpose to visit and inspect Universities or cause the State Bar Councils to visit and inspect Universities in accordance with such directions as it may give in this behalf;
(ia) to conduct seminars and organise talks on legal topics by eminent jurists and publish journals and papers of legal interest;
(ib) to organise legal aid to the poor in the prescribed manner;
(ic) to recognise on a reciprocal basis foreign qualifications in law obtained outside India for the purpose of admission as an advocate under this Act;
(2) (b) giving legal aid or advice in accordance with the rules made in this behalf.
Section 15. Power to make rules.―(1) A Bar Council may make rules to carry out the purposes of this Chapter
49. General power of the Bar Council of India to make rules.― 1 [(1)] The Bar Council of India may make rules for discharging its functions under this Act, and, in particular, such rules may prescribe-
(af) the minimum qualifications required for admission to a course of degree in law in any recognised University;
(d) the standards of legal education to be observed by Universities in India and the inspection of Universities for that purpose;
(e) the foreign qualifications in law obtained by persons other than citizens of India which shall be recognised for the purpose of admission as an advocate under this Act;
A combined reading of the above mentioned sections entails that Bar Council of India powers to regulate the legal education that is necessary for the purpose for the purpose of enrolment as an Advocate. The regulation of Post Graduate and PhD courses of law by the BCI seems to be an overreach of the power conferred by the Advocates Act, 1961.
2. The Legal Education Committee and Special Sub-Committee
The BCILE Rules 2020 seek to appoint a Special Sub-Committee for implementing rules of BCILE under the overall control and guidance of Legal Education Committee (LEC) of the Bar Council of India. (b) The Special Committee shall be composed of the following members:
- Five eminent professors of Law, one of whom being the Vice Chancellor of the NLSIU, as may be nominated by the Legal Education Committee;
- Two Hon’ble sitting or retired Judge of High Courts, nominated by Chairman of the BCI; and
- Three members of the Bar Council of India nominated by the Chairman of the BCI.
The BCILE Rules 2020 do not talk about the composition of Legal Education Committee. Section 10(2)(b) of the Advocates Act, 1961 gives power to State Bar Council to constitute a legal education committee consisting of ten members, of whom five shall be persons elected by the Council from amongst its members and five shall be persons co- opted by the Council who are not members.
3. Qualification of Faculty members
Section 4 of the Rules says that the Core faculty members shall have qualification and experience prescribed by University Grants Commission based on the rank of the assignment of Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor to be appointed by a University and shall be drawing salary and other benefits as prescribed by UGC and the MHRD and/or State Government, as the case may be, from time to time. However, under some special circumstances, the B.C.I. can make some changes in the matters of qualification and experience.
4. Post-Graduate Degree Course in Law
The BCILE Rules 2020 (Sec.6) abolishes one year Master Degree in Law and prescribes LL.M degree consists of 4 semesters (2 Years). Bar Council of India to conduct a Post Graduate Common Entrance Test in Law (PGCETL) for admission in Master Degree course in Law in all Universities and until the PGCETL is introduced the present system followed by respective Universities shall be followed. Once the BCI introduces PGCETL it shall be mandatory to admit the students from the merit list of the Test. Applicants seeking admission shall submit the score in the PGCETL for admission into a Master Degree in Law program of an Approved Law School/Centre of Legal Education and admission shall be based on merit subject to rules of classification and reservation in the state concerned (Sec. 8).
The PGP Course (LL.M. Program) shall comprise a minimum of four compulsory taught papers, eight papers from Common Basket or from area of specialization as may be offered by the University and a dissertation under the guidance of a Professor/Associate Professor. In case no Professor or Associate Professor is available in any super-speciality, an Assistant Professor (with Ph.D.) in the area of such super speciality may also guide (Sec. 11).
5. Educational Upgradation and Efficiency Enhancement & Professional Education
The Bar Council of India through the B. C. I. Trust shall introduce two professional efficiency enhancement continuing education courses only for Advocates who are enrolled with any State Bar Council, which are as follows:
(i) Associate Program
- Associate program equivalent to the Masters’ degree in law to be conducted over a period of three years in order to complete total number of credit points for each part and of the whole course as the case may be.
- The program shall be based on modules and registered lawyers for the course may take the test on the basis of completion of Part of the course and take their time to complete the prescribed course contents according to their available time.
- The teaching methodology shall be home study of the study materials, completion of questions on lessons and sending the answers through emails, feedback from the evaluators and one-to-one online discussion for doubt clearance with the faculty at scheduled time.
(ii) Fellowship program
- Fellowship of the Bar Council of India shall be equivalent to Ph.D.
- LL.M./A.B.C.I. shall be the entry qualification for registration.
- Fellowship is obtained by conducting research under the supervision of a allotted faculty by B. C. I. Trust for a period not less than three years.
- Submission of the thesis on any topic/issue of any super speciality area or any branch of law and the thesis may be assessed by a body of at least three experts to be nominated by B. C. I. Trust in consultation with L. E. C.
- After the conferment of the award, one can use the academic title of Fellowship of the Bar Council of India (F.B.C.I).
6. Refresher/Continuing Education Program
The Bar Council of India Trust in association with any National Law University/University faculty having high accreditation rate and the State Bar Councils may run any or all of the following continuing education program on periodical/regular basis:
- Short Term refresher courses of the duration of five days to fifteen days in any general or specialized field of law, on successful completion of which participants shall obtain a certificate of participation in terms of credit points acquired in such courses. BCI shall declare number of credit points to be given for any of such courses. An Advocate can mention in his business Card and professional records as to how many credit points he/she may have acquired by attending such courses over a period of time.
- The Bar Council of India shall notify any of these courses with the detailed guidelines on admission, supply of study materials, semi-annual contact hours, on-line education, nature of the test to be attended to successfully complete the course, curriculum schedule, course fees and other fees to be paid, if any etc.
7. Para Legal/Court Management Courses
BCI Trust may conduct para-legal (including land survey work, notarization, registration and all other judicial work of court and lawyers’ chamber management) and technology & Court Management courses of suitable duration on-line and/or off-line to facilitate para-legal works and court-management to cover updated education and training. BCI Trust may for the above purpose seek assistance and involve the service of the National Legal Services Authority and State Legal Services Authorities.