After the Council informed the court that about 5000 advocates had been enrolled since July 2020 through its partial online enrolment process, and the petitioner graduates had also been provisionally enrolled, the Single Judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh observed that, "the Council has taken sufficient steps to provide for online enrolment already."
Under the partial online system, though the enrolment form and fee payment process were made available online, the candidates' physical presence was necessary to complete the process.
One of the petitions was filed by law graduates from Bihar who had moved the same during the pandemic, seeking online enrolment in the Council before the conduct of the AIBE 2020 citing inability to travel to Delhi – they had sought urgent relief as one of the preconditions for appearing in the exam is enrolment with a Bar Council.
In this regard, the Council's advocate informed the court that the candidates have already been granted provisional enrolment and wrote or will be writing the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) this year.
The petitioner, Abhishek Anand, who was appearing in person, was one of these law graduates. He also sought for the requirement of the Bar Council to furnish a proof of residence/rent agreement for Delhi, to be dropped. To support his prayer, he informed the court that S.25 of the Advocates Act includes the place where the applicant "proposes to practice", and therefore, mandating a proof of residence/ rent agreement to be supplied was unreasonable.
However, Justice Singh refused to accept this argument as tenable and stated that the section had to be interpreted as requiring the applicant to reside in the place where he/she proposes to ordinarily practice, and there was nothing unreasonable about this. She also relied on Section 28 of the Act under which the Council was empowered to regulate conditions for the enrolment of advocates.
The court remarked, "If one is going to practice in Delhi, they can't be residing in Bihar – will they be coming to court from Bihar every day?"
Anand's petition was filed in December last year, and the Single Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla, that was then hearing the case had issued notice on the plea, had rapped the Bar Council for its failure to have a procedure in place for online mode of enrolment of law graduates during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked the council, "When everything is going digital during the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we accept the argument that it might be difficult for BCD to go online?"