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BCI: No SC access until 4 years trial & HC exp • Make CLE compulsory • Ban on electing ‘errant arrogant criminals’ to BCs

Check out the latest likely best laid plans by the BCI
Check out the latest likely best laid plans by the BCI

According to The Leaflet, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has made an announcement that it was “seriously considering” introducing reforms by 2020, which would require:

  • two years of trial court experience for lawyers who want to practise in high courts, and
  • an additional two years of high court experience for lawyers wanting to practise in the Supreme Court.

As so many things BCI, whether this will actually happen is anyone’s guess.

Crucially this would only apply to new entrants to the bar, who would have to produce a certificate granted by the BCI to graduate to a higher forum of practice from trial courts, and certificates from high court bar associations and high court registrar to graduate to the Supreme Court.

Limiting it this way is obviously a smart move, as otherwise the BCI would probably find striking lawyers on its own doorsteps before long.

In theory, it’s not the most awful idea to come out of the BCI innovation factory: some lower court experience is said to help a lot in understanding what happens at a higher instance, and it might also ensure that the lower courts see bright young talent enter it, who perhaps end up staying and improving matters there.

However, it’s not going to do much to make litigation more attractive to the best law school grads, who have long been brain-drained into the corporate sector.

If you think Supreme Court and high court senior counsel are stingy with stipends to graduates, it seems unlikely that better wages would be available from a Taluka court senior.

Nor will it improve access to the profession from those who don’t come from privilege or lawyer families: most matters and fees at lower courts be juicy enough for tens of thousands of budding advocates (who are not independently wealthy) entering the profession every year, to make a living wage.

According to its release, the BCI apparently ran with some comments made by the new Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde at his felicitation function yesterday.

Continuing legal education

Also within its release, is the idea to make compulsory legal education (CLE) compulsory for all lawyers with less than 10 years of experience.

The BCI said that the training would be provided through Bar Councils for free, with certificates of due training provided by state bar councils and bar associations (it’s not certain how this would work out financially, though the BCI is far from cash strapped).

Again, not a bad idea on paper and it’s more than high time to introduce CLE, which would bring India in line with most jurisdictions.

However, the BCI’s implementation will most certainly carry with it lots of question marks.

The proposals would be discussed the next bar association and bar councils meet in January 2020.

Strangely, the press release adds that until the “rules are finalised by the joint meeting, there shall be no election of any Bar Association in the country”, and it adds:

The errant, arrogant, non-practicing and persons with criminal background shall not be allowed to contest any election of any bar Association or any Bar Council.

One wonders who the BCI could mean by this...

BCI proposals to change things up a bit (via the Leaflet) (PDF)

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