The Bar Council of India has notified the “Bar Council of India Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015”. These Rules, which are effective from January 13, 2015, mandate a “Certificate of Practice”, in the absence of which, the Advocate would not be entitled to practice law. (Section 5 of the Rules)
These Rules repeal the Bar Council of India Certificate of Practice and Renewal Rules, 2014. The major change is the repeal of Chapter III, which required a minimum of 5 years of work experience in lower Courts, before being allowed to practice in the Supreme Court.
The Certificate of Practice and Renewal Rules had seen a lot of criticism from all quarters. A Writ Petition in Madras High Court had prayed,
“…. it is humbly prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to issue a WRIT OF DECLARATION or any other appropriate WRIT or ORDER or DIRECTION declaring Rule 7 of the Bar Council of India Certificate of Practice and Renewal Rules, 2014 as Void, Illegal and Unconstitutional and pass such further or other orders as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the circumstances of the case and thus render justice.” Read the Petition and LiveLaw coverage here.
Addressing several issues which have put the legal profession under a cloud, the Statement of objects and reasons of the Rules states, “In the Joint Meeting of the representatives of all State Bar Councils and Bar Council of India, concerns were raised by all that trend of Advocates switching over to other professions/services/business without any information to the State Bar Council has reached alarming proportions. This trend is endangering the legal profession as a whole. It has also made a dent in its sanctity and standards. Names of such advocates continue to be included in the “Roll of advocates” being maintained by the State Bar Councils, notwithstanding the fact that they have left the legal profession or have since died.”
According to these new Rules, Advocates had raised an objection with regard to the use of the word Renewal in the earlier Rules, though in fact it was not renewal of enrolment. Rather, it aimed at periodical verification of the details of an Advocate already enrolled with some State Bar Council. The aim is and has been only to verify the place where the Advocate normally practices, the Bar Association of which he is a member, the address/email id, enrolment number/year, the Institutions from which the Advocate has graduated and got an LL.B degree. The purpose is hence, maintenance of records.
An exemption from verification has been provided to senior Advocates designated under Section 16 of the Act and the advocates on Record of Supreme Court. They are just supposed to send two photos, with their names and addresses, in order to appear in the voters list. (Section 5 (a) of the Rules)
Secondly, the purpose is to introduce certain electoral reforms in the Bar Council/Bar Association elections, because in recent past, the BCI and State Bar Councils have come across cases of rigging in the polls and the allegations of bogus voting has not become frequent, since the Bar Councils have no record of the advocates who have died after enrolment or who joined other jobs, business or profession. The Bar Council hence decided to make a detailed voter list, along with recent photos of advocates.
Further, the BCI rules had faced criticism for Rs. 500 being charged as Practice Fee. The New Rules justify that a major portion of this fee, (about Rs. 400) was aimed at providing welfare schemes like insurance for advocates and their family members and improvement of infrastructure and Library of Bar Associations.
As per the New Rules, this amount has been reduced to Rs. 100, and has made Rs. 400 as optional Fee, depending upon the decision of the concerned State Bar Council and Advocates. After deduction of the amount incurred for undertaking verification, the remaining amount will only be used for improvement of infrastructure of Associations. A separate Book Account will have to be maintained for this purpose, which will be audited each year.
Provision has been made for identification of fake persons and non-practicing Advocates. The Rules also aim to discourage Advocates who raise unnecessary protests with intent to keep and protect the fake and non-practicing Advocates with an object to get their votes. Therefore, if any Advocate is found to be indulged in making deliberate effort to:
Such advocates will be debarred from contesting any election of the Bar Association or Bar Council for 3 years. Such an order will only be passed by a Tribunal consisting of one former Judge of any High Court (nominated by BCI), one senior Advocate and one Senior Member of State Bar Council (nominated by the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of that Bar Council). The former HC Judge will be the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal.
Read the BCI Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015 here