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This article, like many others, was first published exclusively for long-term supporters, 12 hours before everyone else got to read it.

Chairman Mishra educates again: Teaches HRD, NLS students about history, future and ‘huge... tooth-and-nail’ protests

BCI press release tells pesky HRD & NLS kids how to really hold an effective protest
BCI press release tells pesky HRD & NLS kids how to really hold an effective protest

Still flying high after his barnstorming speech on Sunday at the NLSIU Bangalore convocation, Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra has stood up for the noble profession yet again and hit back at the government, which has floated an oft-attempted but never-achieved proposal that would drastically shake up legal education in the country.

The Deccan Herald had reported on 1 October that the government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has initiated the process to allow foreign universities to open up in India.

Crucially, this plan also includes the idea to fold the regulation of legal education into the HRD, rather than leaving legal ed with its rightful regulator, the BCI, which has stood behind every single great Indian lawyer for eternity.

Mishra, the mostly-on-again-rarely-off-again BCI chairman since 2012, and his new power-sharing co-chairman Ved Prakash Sharma, therefore helpfully reached out to the HRD with a press release and letter to remind them just who they’re dealing with exactly.

With the press release, he also attached a nine-page personal letter to “Esteemed Sir” “Hon’ble Mr. Narendra Modi Ji” (see PDF below, which is an educative read, as always).

Chairman Mishra explained in his letter the BCI’s position in detail (and reminded Modi that getting the HRD to mess with the BCI was actually the original brainchild of people like Kapil Sibal and “certain bureaucrats sitting in the Ministry are hands in gloves with a handful of so called law teachers, who are acting as agents of these bureaucrats”).

Luckily the BCI was up to the task back then to fight for the bar’s independence. “Sibal had to withdraw the bill because the Advocates throughout the country were compelled to come on roads in the year 2012,” recounted Mishra.

“The courts were closed for two days and lawyers went against the congress government,” chairman Mishra said, then added: “Result came in the year 2014” (somewhat superfluously, since even schoolchildren know how instrumental lawyers such as chairman Mishra were to Modi’s election victory.)

But more on that later.

First of all, the press release, as published by LiveLaw and Bar & Bench, and reported on widely in the mainstream media, makes it very clear that the BCI will “protest tooth and nail the constitution of any other body for regulation” of Indian legal education.

“More than one lakhs lawyers are likely to participate in the said protest rally and Gherao in the month of November,” the BCI letter helpfully reminded the government.

Continuing legal education

Chairman Mishra clearly saw this letter as part of a continuing teaching opportunity for immature NLSIU students, whom, only three days before, he had exhorted at their convocation to learn from their elders.

“As your parent body it is my duty to warn you that strikes, [inaudible] are no good things but it is good only up to a limit,” chairman Mishra had told the NLSIU students wisely. “BHU, JNU Delhi the very premier institutions of this country but their strong student unions, their increasing tendency to strikes, protest have spoiled them. Today they are nowhere”.

The chairman’s warning to the students that strikes are only good “up to a limit”, is of course correct: a protest of a few hundred national law schoolites is nothing, when compared to the gherao that 1 lakh lawyers can make! (1 lakh is a pretty safe figure, by the way, since no one seems to still quite have figure out exactly how many Indian lawyers there actually are).

Children must learn from elders about history

It’s therefore only fair that in his letter to the HRD, chairman Mishra took credit for teaching the NLS kids a thing or two, which also happened to support the claim that the BCI was a wonderful regulator of childrens’ education.

“It may be pointed out that the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, was created by the Bar Council of India (BCI) and it has a very high ranking, globally among Law Universities,” chairman Mishra reminded in his letter to the HRD, though arguably no one needs such reminders.

Both of the chairman’s assertions are correct, of course.

NLSIU Bangalore is very famous in India for being the Harvard of the East (especially amongst NLSIU vice chancellors), and of course Harvard University is nothing if not a globally ranked brand-name that every other global university ranks very highly.

NLSIU may not have made an appearance on any actual global league tables yet, but surely that’s just a matter of time, chairman Mishra rightly assumed.

Second, yes the BCI did totally create NLSIU, and Wikipedia confirms it.

Before the current era before Mishra has rightfully held the chairmanship of the BCI, there had been others. The late and great Ram Jethmalani had been BCI chairman in the 1970s and 1980s and had incepted NLSIU Bangalore, with Chief Justice M Hidayatullah and Prof. Upendra Baxi. Vinay Chandra Mishra had carried on that idea as BCI chairman from 1986, when NLSIU was established by its first vice chancellor (VC), the late Prof Madhava Menon.

Instrumental to NLSIU’s founding was also the BCI’s legal education committee (which, chairman Mishra had memorably reminded NLS students on Sunday, was “a very powerful [committee] and more competent than any other commission”).

Such proposals are surely madness

In his letter, chairman Mishra also makes very good other arguments against the BCI not regulating legal education, even though some may for long have foolishly argued that reform is a good idea.

“The reason of protest is that the Legal Education cannot be allowed to be regulated by outsiders, social workers or the teachers,” he wrote. “The Council has raised the demand to spare the professional legal studies from the purview of [the Bill].”

Indeed, it would do us well to remember that law is a noble profession, and if outsiders were to run legal education, we god forbid we could end up in another situation such as when three BCI officials took bribes to accredit law colleges, for which they were jailed in 2016.

And letting “teachers” or “social workers” regulate legal education seems an even worse idea, that is surely akin to letting the inmates run the asylum!

It’s also clear that the BCI is on the job: only in August, it had announced that the 300 new law schools accredited in the past five years were probably not very good law schools, and therefore it wouldn’t allow any more law schools, for at least three years.

Remember the power

The BCI will be holding an all-state bar council meeting on 12 October at the BCI offices, chairman Mishra noted in his press release.

Chairman Mishra recalled that “last year also the move to introduce such Bill was proposed but with the intervention of Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Shri Amit Shah, the proposal was dropped”.

Chairman Mishra is being diplomatic and modest, of course, since he definitely does not have a bone to pick with our “beloved” guardian”, “guide” and “most efficient and able leader”, as when he had tenderly threatened NaMo with strikes a few years ago.

But the reality is, that in 2018, the BCI totally won that fight after threatening strikes and the government backed down.

Chairman Mishra is also too modest to mention that the BCI had won pretty much the same fight also by threatening strikes in:

Gameplan: A fun agenda for the striking lawyer this winter

In his letter to Modi Ji, chairman Mishra outlines what will happen if the government does not play ball and accept their revised draft. First, on 21 October, there’ll be a “one day abstention of the courts throughout the country” as a “token protest”.

Then, there will be “a ‘huge protest Rally’ in all the State capitals as well as Delhi” on 8 November.

After that, lawyers from all parts of the country would travel to Delhi and “Gherao the Parliament during winter session”.

Fortunately, for Modi, chairman Mishra has graciously offered that a “5-Member delegation of the Council would like to meet your goodself at the earliest possible time”, and noted:

We are sure that the bureaucrats and “Babus” have put Hon’ble Prime Minister, Hon’ble HRD Minister and our Hon’ble Law Minister in dark and got this bill drafter. After coming to know the truth out beloved Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi Ji, Hon’ble Mr Amit Shah Ji and our other Hon’ble Union Ministers will never allow such a step or Bill which could affect the Advocates Act, 1961. Our topmost guardians will not allow anyone to annoy the Advocates of our country. The lawyers are always with our Modi Ji and the present government.”

The government, of whatever persuasion, should really have read their history better and understood by now that there’s no winning against the BCI.

Hopefully they can still learn and see the light, with the able assistance of our chairman Mishra.

We are all obliged!

BCI Fan is an outspoken fan of the BCI. Any opinions are BCI Fan’s own.

BCI chairman Mishra letter to Narendra Modi in MHRD 2019 edition

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