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BCI to meet Rahul G, follow Annaji as ups lobbying vs HRD, foreign schools, firms

Rahulji: Upcoming date with BCI?
Rahulji: Upcoming date with BCI?
The Bar Council of India (BCI) has claimed to have made progress and vowed to continue lobbying against the Higher Education and Research Bill 2011 (HER Bill), as it has called for renewed resistance to the proposals.

At a press conference at the Bar Council Bhawan in Delhi last night, the BCI said it would hold peaceful protests and Dharnas against the proposal.

“We’ll follow Anna Hazare and all that,” joked BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra.

He said that the BCI had already met leaders of various political parties including the UPA, NDA, Trinamool Congress, NCP, DMK, AIADMK, CPI, RJD and LJP, and all of them had responded positively.

Among UPA members, the BCI has already met the law minister Salman Khurshid, as well as Oscar Fernandes, AK Antony and Motilal Vora, said Mishra, adding that further appointments had been scheduled with Janardhan Dwivedi and Rahul Gandhi. On 7 May a BCI delegation would meet M Karunanidhi.

Mishra again asserted that the HER Bill, which proposes to bring legal education regulation within the ambit of the Ministry for Human Resources and Development (HRD), was unconstitutional for lack of legislative competence and for destroying the basic structure of the constitution.

Unlike the other higher education sectors mentioned in clause 83 of the Bill, legal education is not covered in the concurrent list of the constitution. The Advocates Act 1961 therefore leaves the regulation of legal education exclusively to the BCI and state bar councils, and not to the government.

The BCI noted that the HER Bill is motivated by the ministry’s intention to facilitate entry of foreign law institutions and foreign law firms, which was a “draconian step” that the BCI and state bar councils would “never tolerate”.

Resentment

“Last year we got 80 law colleges closed. That is the reason for their resentment,” Mishra said, responding to a question about the ministry’s rationale behind the Bill. “BCI demands constitution of a lawyers’ academy in every state, and also one at the centre, for continued training to legal professionals, but the government is not giving any funds to the Bar Council.”

“The government has not done anything for the welfare of the legal community. Government is not at all keen. We find that in most law institutes more than 50 per cent vacancies of teachers are present. But the government doesn’t care.”

Last month outgoing BCI chairman Ashok Parija had reiterated the BCI’s unequivocal demand to keep the Advocates Act 1961 entirely outside the HER Bill.

Apart from the HER Bill, BCI and state bar councils also oppose The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Act 2012, The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations), Bills 2010, and The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010.

Doing something

In addition to resisting those legislations, the BCI said that it would also reach out to the government to make provisions for professional welfare schemes, including mediclaim, insurance, welfare fund, pensions and compulsory graduate stipends, and expansion of the Rajiv Gandhi Advocates’ Training Scheme to all those joining the bar.

BCI would also plan to bridge the gap across law schools across the country in terms of well-trained faculty, online database resources and distance learning tools available.

The welfare measures would affect 15 lakh registered advocates, around 950 law schools and approximately 4 to 5 lakh law students across the country, noted the BCI adding that 60,000 to 70,000 law graduates were joining the Indian legal profession every year.

The BCI has also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Australian law council and is putting in place a law student exchange programme with the Paris Bar Association.

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