Age No Bar For Studying Law: SC Stays BCI Notification [Read Order]

Age No Bar For Studying Law: SC Stays BCI Notification [Read Order]

There will be no age limit for LLB examination this academic year, as the Supreme Court has stayed Bar Council of India's (BCI) notification fixing age limit for law courses.

When the matter was called up, Justice Nageswara Rao asked whether there had been some development from the Bar Council. Ardhendumauli Prasad Counsel for the Bar Council stated that the BCI had taken a decision on Wednesday to raise it to 22 for the 5-year courses and 45 for the 3-year courses.

Justice Rao turned to the Petitioners and asked whether this satisfies them. Advocate Gopal Sankaranaraynan told the Court that it would not as one of the Petitioner-Intervenors Michael Sam is 23 and five of the candidates in Allahabad are also past the age and the order of the High Court is subject to the Supreme Court.

At this point, the Bench asked the BCI what can be done as this would not resolve issues.

Mr. Prasad submitted that the Committee which decided consisted of leading academics and that it was an informed decision. Advocate Gopal stated that in Panama City, a 70 year old completes law while in China a farmer completed law in his 60s after studying for 16 years on his own.

Why should India be different when there should be no ceiling limit for learning?

At this point Justice Bobde asked Advocate Prasad why there should be a ceiling limit suddenly after nearly 50-60 years without any such stipulation.

To this he said that those who wish can do the 3-year course. The Bench then stated that it would be staying the age-limit, thereby allowing all to attempt the 5-year and 3-year courses.

Then the Bench said;

“You talk about promoting legal education and on other hand, you fix age limit.”

Justice Rao sought to know whether the High Courts had stayed the notification in full. Gopal submitted that some High Courts had limited the order to allowing the Petitioners before them to apply for admission and sit for the exams while 2 High Courts had granted a stay.

The Bench sought to know where the September notification was and Mr.Sanjay Hegde, Sr. Advocate assisted in this regard and also added that the CLAT Notification should be stayed as well.

The Bench said that all consequential actions would automatically be stayed and so explicit orders would not be necessary.

Mr.Prasad sought at this stage that the admissions pursuant to the interim order be subject to the outcome of the present proceedings. To this, all Petitioners' counsel objected as did the Bench which said that in fact there could be no such stipulation as they had applied their mind and decided consciously that all candidates could sit without it being subject to anything.

Mr.Prasad then sought that the matter be listed for hearing. Mr.Hegde said that this could be done after the BCI and others completed pleadings. As a result, the case was directed after pleadings to be listed for hearing in July 2017.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, and Advocate Gopal Shankar Narayan and Zoheb Hossein appeared for the petitioners.

The bench comprising Justices Bobde and Nageswara Rao was hearing petitions filed by CLAT aspirants including Michael Sam an orphan supported by IDIA, from Mumbai challenging the age limit clause introduced by Bar Council of India for taking admissions in law schools.

Bar Council had restored Clause 28 of Legal Education Rules, 2008, stipulating the maximum age limit of 20 years for taking admission to the 5-year integrated law degree.

Speaking To LiveLaw, IDIA  Founder Prof. Shamnad Basheer, who drafted Michael Sam's petition to the Supreme Court said;

"We are so thrilled by the result today and have to express our deep gratitude to a fine set of competent counsels who ensured this victory. We were also fortunate to have a stellar team of researchers both within IDIA and outside working around the clock to pull up persuasive material. Such as stories of people from around the world who did law after they turned 60 and made an impressive mark on the profession. We were very clear from the start that Michael's case would be presented as social justice narrative. Less on the legalese and more on the larger societal ramifications of exclusion. Which is why we included a poem in the petition to make it less formal and more earthy. The age bar would have hit  marginalized communities the most, since they typically have a late start. As was the case with Michael who really struggled to educate himself by doing odd canteen jobs and all. We knew deep in our hearts that if we really wanted to build a more inclusive India, we had to bust this artificial age barrier trumped up by the Bar Council. Education should have no fetters. And least of all legal education, which benefits immensely from pluralistic/diverse perspectives that typically comes with a mixed age group of students."

Talking to LiveLaw, BCI chairman Manan Mishra, who is in Patna, said;

"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."

Read the order here.