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300 new law schools later, BCI tries (again) to turn off tap for 3 years (but don’t hold your breath)

India now has 1,500 law schools
Unsurprisingly, law colleges have continued mushrooming in the last three years...
Unsurprisingly, law colleges have continued mushrooming in the last three years...

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has in a press release said it would not approve any more law schools for three years, after the number of schools had ballooned to 1,500, meaning it had approved around 25% additional law colleges since five years ago.

In 2014, we had reported that India had 1,200 BCI-approved law schools, and the BCI had tried to put a limit on the number back then too (not for the first time).

The new moratorium would run for three years, but exclude any new national law schools to be set up by state governments, and the BCI would “lay stress on improvement of standard of the existing Institutions and the Institutions who have no proper infrastructure and faculty, would be closed down”.

Its press release, perennial chairman Manan Kumar Mishra noted that in 2016 the BCI had also attempted to stop approving new law schools but apparently more than 300 “No Objection Certificates (NOCs)” were issued by universities and the BCI’s refusal to grant approval would result in legal challenges “and some of the Hon’ble High Courts issued directions to consider the proposals”.

(2016 was also the notable year, of course, in which three BCI officials had been convicted of and jailed for taking bribes for accrediting law schools.)

And while it’s true that the BCI had proceeded to issue show cause notices against law schools threatening their shut down (including to Delhi University, whose dean called the BCI “jokers”), there was very little transparency surrounding the entire process.

For one, there’s not even a list of all accredited law schools maintained on the BCI website and its inspection reports or new applications are not public either.

And, judging by the fact that the numbers of law schools have grown by 25%, the BCI had completely failed in its plans back then, so there is little to suggest the current planned moratorium / cull will be any more successful.

In its statement, the BCI blamed pretty much everyone except itself for this increase and the woeful current state of Indian legal education, running the gamut from states, to UGC, to HRD Ministry, stating:

In the present resolution, the Bar Council of India has assigned the reason that there are about 1500 law colleges; due to lethargy of universities and some State Governments, several colleges are running without proper infrastructure. State Governments seldom take interest in appointing law faculties in the Government Law Colleges and the constituent units.

State Government grant No Objection Certificates and Universities are granting affiliations recklessly. Universities are unable to stop the use of unfair means at the law exams in most of rural areas; the State Governments do not show any interest in checking unfair means.

Due to negligence of University Grants Commission (UGC), 90% of law colleges/law schools do not get any grant to improve their standards.

Moreover, it is very easy to get LL. M and Ph. D degrees because of total non-concern of HRD Ministry and Universities.

That is the reasons (sic) for the acute dearth of “good law teachers in the country”. LLM and Ph. D. degress are not under the control of Bar Council of India and only approval/recognition of LL. B degree is within its domain.

According to the BCI’s statement “at present there are enough Institutions in all parts of the country to feed the law courts and to serve the people. There is no dearth of advocates and the existing Institutions are sufficient to produce required number of law graduates annually”.

Interestingly, the BCI’s claim that 30% of advocates in India were “fake”; and its exercise to force all lawyers to re-register their practising certificate, has been pretty quiet since 2018, besides having been used as an excuse to delay state bar council elections.

Food for thought, and perhaps also for healthy skepticism about its latest announcement.

The press release about the BCI’s 11 August meeting was first reported by LiveLaw and others earlier this month.

BCI Press Release on Law School Approvals Moratorium (PDF)

Photo by Dick Culbert.

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