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All ages free to LLB again (without strings attached): SC stays BCI’s age bar for now (including revision)

SC knocks out LLB age limit, despite BCI attempt to sneak-extend it by only 2 years
SC knocks out LLB age limit, despite BCI attempt to sneak-extend it by only 2 years

The Supreme Court has issued an ad interim stay of the Bar Council of India (BCI) age limit today, and ordered the BCI that no age limit should apply to law aspirants seeking to study LLB.

Senior counsel Sanjay Hegde and advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan appeared today, with advocate-on-record Zoheb Hossain appearing for the third petitioner and Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) scholar Michael Sam.

As LiveLaw and Bar & Bench had reported earlier this week, the BCI had decided at its general council meeting in Kolkata to extend the age limit from 20 to 22 for the five-year-LLB, and from 30 to 45 in the three-year LLB because the new age limit was reportedly causing “confusion” and “inconvenience” to candidates.

Hossain told the bench that his petitioner Sam would not fall within that age relaxation.

However, BCI counsel AK Prasad then made a request to the court, according to Hossain, that the Supreme Court could stay it, but to make the admission of anyone older than the new age limit of 23, conditional to the outcome of the petition.

This would have meant that anyone getting admission in an undergraduate law course, would have had a future outcome of this petition hanging over their head, which would have acted as a dampener on the number of older students applying.

However, the bench rejected that suggestion today, recounted Hossain, with justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao saying: “There’s a reason we are staying it, and we are not making it subject to the outcome of the petition.”

One of the three petitioners, Michael Sam, is currently around 21-years-old but his exact birthday is not known because he was orphaned at birth. He is an IDIA scholar with a moving career so far. The other two petitioners, Rishabh Duggal and Rishabh Arora, are both 21-years-old and decided to pursue their dream of studying law after studying electronics and commerce degrees respectively. For more about their cases, please see our full report here.

BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra had told LiveLaw after the Kolkata meeting: “We have to inform the Supreme Court on Friday about our decision. This is an interim measure as the deadline for submission of application is March 31 and the academic session will start. The final decision will be taken by the Legal Education Committee after consultation with the stakeholders.”

On 28 February the BCI had asked for another three days from the Supreme Court to let its general counsel reconsider the age limit, after the bench had asked for reasons for the limit and for the BCI to consider it as soon as possible the previous week.

Update: BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told LiveLaw, speaking from Patna: “The BCI will now wait for the court’s final decision, but we would mention for an early hearing of the case.

“Hope the court will hear it expeditiously.”

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