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5 ideas that are radical (but shouldn’t be) to save our legal profession, education & the BCI

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0yujnnev

Ashok Parija was Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman between July 2011 and April 2012, just after the eventful tenure of former solicitor general and senior counsel Gopal Subramanium.

Legally India asked Parija how it would be possible to tackle some of the greatest problems facing the legal profession and its, often ineffective, regulator, the Bar Council of India (BCI).

His list of top priority goals that the legal profession in India should be working on immediately:

1. Appoint 10 senior counsel as BCI members

“Ideally I would like 10 [BCI members] to be nominated by the Chief Justice of India and by the Union Law Minister, five each in addition to the existing 19 members. And look what an efficient council you are going to have. It will have a blend of elected representatives and legal luminaries. The reputation and credibility of the council will enhance forthwith,” says Parija about the best way to fix the BCI, which would be to encourage more senior members of the profession to take an interest in the legal profession’s regulation.

Even though the BCI already has the Attorney General of India and the Solicitor General of India as ex officio members, they barely ever, if at all, turn up these days, says Parija. “But tomorrow if you have eminent lawyers Mr KK Venugopal, Mr PP Rao, Mr Anil Divan as members, they will also come,” he commented.

Parija’s predecessor, ex-solicitor general and senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, was the rare exception, when he was elected BCI chairman as an ex officio member and introduced a number of attempts at reform, particularly in the field of legal education, until 2011.

“Initially you have to take the pains to make [senior lawyers] interested to come to BCI meetings,” suggests Parija. “When they believe their views will be honoured and implemented, they will all come. I know all of them want to come. When I was the chairman, we had eminent lawyers like Mr KK Venugopal, Mr Anil Divan, Mr Ashok Desai, Mr Gopal Subramanium and Mr AK Ganguli as special invitees, and they used to attend meetings.

“Let me tell you Mr KK Venugopal and Mr PP Rao used to fund programmes for training of young lawyers.”

2. Arun Jaitley: Give money to create another ‘50 Madhav Menons’ in a law teacher academy

Parija says that there weren’t enough lawyers willing to become law teachers and that the way to fill that void was to have a central law teachers’ training academy, financed by the government. “To me it is as important as a national judicial academy.”

“How long will you talk about Prof Madhav Menon, Prof NL Mitra, Prof MP Singh, Prof Ranbir Singh, and Prof Venkat Rao or Prof Faizan Mustafa and a handful of others. Where is the next generation?” he asks. “You can count only a few. Prof Raj Kumar, Prof Rahul Singh, Prof Nandimath and some others.”

Parija suggests that the BCI should direct law schools lacking good faculty to finance the education of selected candidates at the central teachers’ training academy, and then absorb them as faculty members:

“Somebody like Prof Madhav Menon could be entrusted with the job. A man who I know can work tirelessly for 18 hours a day and he is an institution by himself. His dedication is exemplary. You know I did some law training programs with him in different parts of the country, from Odisha to Delhi to Kerala and believe you me he is top class. He will be more than happy to do contribute for the improvement of the legal profession.

“You see you won’t find another Madhav Menon, so if you want to make it, make it now. I once had the occasion to discuss with Mr Arun Jaitely a learned senior colleague and now an important Union Minister about Prof Menon and his views were identical. This is the right time to push for a National Academy for law teachers.

“Ask [Jaitley]: get me another 50 Madhav Menons.”

3. Build e-libraries and proper infrastructure for the Mofussil lawyer

Parija pitches the idea of a government website which makes available electronic libraries, including, among other material, all the major legal publications, to every court across India including the lowest courts.

“Don’t look at the lawyers in Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay as the lawyers representing the country. They are only 5 per cent. Somebody in the Mofussil court should have access to library if you want people really to be benefitted from the system. It has never happened.”

4. Insurance & welfare

He reiterates the point on lawyer welfare often made by the BCI, that lawyers are in need of good state-financed insurance schemes.

“[The money] could come from senior lawyers. You see lawyers paying a lot of taxes so there is nothing wrong in the government financing insurance policies. A lot of money the government of India is spending on creating judicial infrastructure for courts. Add another 30,000 square feet for the bar association with a few computers with online judgements, local acts and central acts available. Whichever lawyer wants to pay he will pay for the cost of the print out etc.”

Parija stressed the need for bar association rooms capable of accommodating at least 200 lawyers and a few computers, to be included in any plan for providing for new infrastructure in courts.

5. ‘Ridiculous’: Make sure bar councils never go on strike

“My views on strike are very clear,” says Parija about lawyers’ strikes. “Bar Council of India being a regulator should never resort to strike.

“How can a regulator go on strike? It is ridiculous. Bar Council of India has passed several resolutions not to go on strike and in fact there are Supreme Court judgments to this effect. The regulator in my view should live up to its statutory functions and duties,” he explains.

“I had differences with my colleagues on this issue but if you want to build institution you must be prepared stand by what you think is right.”

The BCI re-elected former chairman and Parija’s successor Manan Kumar Mishra to the chairmanship on Sunday.

If you have any ideas for how to fix the legal profession, please leave them in the comments or get in touch at

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