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In two years, number of law schools increased from 800 to 1,200: Now BCI hopes to put brake on mushrooming epidemic

Colleges: Still mushrooming
Colleges: Still mushrooming

The Bar Council of India (BCI) plans to set a maximum limit on the number of law schools that can be started in each state of India, in a move to curb the growth of law schools with bad infrastructure adding to the already standing 1,200 law schools in India.

BCI vice chairman SL Gowda said: “The BCI now also can make that rule that we are not going to [permit] any law school [to be established in a given] area. Depends on strength of the law schools. If you have three or four colleges with [small] strength in an area, then fourth [college may not be allowed to be operated].”

In 2012, after the tenure of BCI chairpersons Gopal Subramanium and Ashok Parija, the number of law schools had been whittled down to around 800 from 913. However, many of those disaccredited colleges have since been re-accredited, with a number having filed writ petitions challenging the sanction. On top of that, the BCI has also accredited new colleges.

Gowda explained that currently the procedure by which any law school is allowed to operate requires the BCI’s permission at the last stage. New law schools approach the BCI having already obtained the government’s no objection certificate (NOC), and in case the BCI refuses to grant them permission to operate they usually end up filing a writ against the BCI, taking strength from the NOC.

“Infrastructure is just on paper. Sometimes on paper also [infrastructure] is very little. The exact things can be found out only at the time of inspection,” he commented.

Government colleges often worst of the lot

Gowda said that currently there are around 1,200 law schools in India and 19 BCI members for their inspection.

“Some of the law schools in the Taluka and the district headquarters are in a very bad position. Sometimes the government only has started these colleges and the government itself has failed to give any infrastructure to these colleges.”

“The faculty members in government law colleges are getting very good salary. But the students do not have proper infrastructure. Also they have less number of faculty - one principal, one librarian, other than that there will be no faculty. They say that they’re a government college so how can they close. Ultimately it is the [prerogative of the] Bar Council of India. It is the duty of the government to provide proper infrastructure. Before starting the college they should give land, building all these things. They have not done so. If you have opened the law colleges, what next? [The government] has to maintain [the colleges too].”

Borders and bridges

“In that way very serious steps have been taken by the legal education committee. [The committee has been] issuing show cause notice to all chief secretaries of the government and the law ministries. After receiving show cause notices so many colleges have improved their infrastructure. They have got an independent building, faculty.”

“Sometimes if they are trying to provide legal education to the really needy of the area then we also have a duty to support them. So sometimes we have to say that only if you give an independent building then only it is possible to allow you [to operate]. But if we compromise on infrastructure and faculty and all these things the whole thing will collapse. So if even after three to four years of giving opportunity they don’t deliver we definitely issue show cause notice. The legal education committee has taken strong stands from time to time. Sometimes [it has] issued show cause notice to a college and stopped them from [taking] admissions [and] shifted students to neighbouring college building.”

Kerala: A+ / Delhi: F

Kerala was the only state which already has fixed a cap on the number of law schools – permitting not more than three law schools to be established in one district. Gowda said that until 2012 Kerala had around seven law schools throughout the state, and 14 law schools came up in the state last year.

“In Kerala when I visited the new law schools first they had rented premises. Within a span of two years, you are not going to believe, an independent structure has come up. Having an independent building, an independent area with all faculties,” he commented, adding that the BCI allows a law school around three years to shift from a rented building to its own campus, and does not allow a law school to be operated from one floor of a multi-storeyed building for any period at all.

The Delhi University’s law schools, which lost their affiliation in September pending an overdue inspection, are awaiting the report of the BCI inspection committee that visited their campus in October.

“Everybody thinks that Delhi University is the top [university] so no one believes that they could’ve made a mistake,” remarked Gowda.

“All national law schools are regular in requesting for inspection. Delhi University [has] not done [this procedure]. Then we went there by notice [and not by] surprise. After notice also they are not making correct the things that are running in the Delhi university. Sometimes they are running the evening schools also. No such things [are happening] in all over the country. We have not permitted evening schools. Attendance is a must by BCI requirements. Evening colleges have retired people [taking admission in them]. Such things are not permitted by the BCI. They have no classrooms according to strength of students. Faculty is not there. No proper infrastructure.”

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