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LLB age limit down for the count: Ex-bar council Allahabad HC chief lets 70 older students take CLAT

Age is but a number: Allahabad high court all but kills BCI’s arbitrary LLB age limit, subject to SC
Age is but a number: Allahabad high court all but kills BCI’s arbitrary LLB age limit, subject to SC

Scoop: The Allahabad high court has today ordered the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) convenor to allow around 70 aspirants older than 20 years to apply for the exam, despite the last minute rule change by the Bar Council of India (BCI), though the order is contingent on the pending Supreme Court challenge of the age limit, which we had first reported last week.

The applicants were represented by advocate Sushmita Mukherjee, whose petition we had first reported in November of last year.

The matter was last month posted to be heard by a larger bench of Chief Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale and Justice Yashwant Varma.

While the full text of the order is awaited, Mukherjee explained that the bench told her that her “petitioenrs are allowed to fill up the form and allowed to take admissions” in the CLAT. “The court reassured me again and again that your petitioners are safe.”

However, the high court’s order was made contingent on the outcome of the Supreme Court petition that was filed by advocate Zoheb Hossain in early January and was joined by an Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) scholar in February, as argued by Kapil Sibal. Supreme Court Justice Dipak Misra had recused himself from hearing that matter, with a new bench to be constituted shortly.

Of course, it is also possible that the BCI will appeal today’s Allahabad high court order. In any case, this and the Bombay high court order from last week against the state government, will put the pressure on the BCI to justify its age limit in the Supreme Court or face having it struck down once and for all.

According to Mukherjee, Bhosale had expressed surprise at the previous and today’s hearing that an age limit to study even existed, chastising the BCI for not making proper rules and guidelines.

Mukherjee said that Bhosale said told the BCI that the “enabling act is the Advocates Act, and the Advocates Act does not give any power to the BCI to impose any such restrictions”.

Before he became a judge in 2001, Bhosale had incidentally been an elected member of the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa for three consecutive five year terms from 1985, having been elected as vice-chairman in 1987 and 1998, and chairman between 1993 and 1994.

Mukherjee, who has previously won challenges against the BCI’s previous attempts to impose an age limit in 2013 and 2015, commented: “This has become something of a mission for me. What is wrong is wrong, you have to fight against it.”

“Everybody is doing that for the benefit of the students,” she added about the raft of other challenges filed in high courts against the BCI’s age limit.

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