The Bombay High Court has upheld the Rule 2(xxiv) of the Rules of Legal Education, 2008 which prevents Centres of Legal Education from imparting education without obtaining approval of the Bar Council of India.
The bench of Justices Amit Borkar and AS Chandurkar observed that unless regular approval as contemplated under the Rules of 2008 is received by a Centre of Legal Education notwithstanding it having been granted permanent approval earlier, such Centre of Legal Education would not be in a position to admit any student and impart instructions from 2009-10 onwards
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar College of Law and Rashtra Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University had approached the High Court challenging Rule 2(xxiv), which defines the expression "regular approval" means approval for a period not exceeding five years including permanent approval granted earlier to any Centre of Legal Education before the Rules of 2008 came into force. They also sought a declaration that the Law College was not required to seek fresh approval from the Bar Council of India since it was already granted permanent approval.
Referring to the scheme of Advocates Act and BCI Rules, the Court noted that it is the function of the Bar Council of India to promote legal education and lay down standards of such education in consultation with Universities in India imparting such education as well as the State Bar Councils and also to recognize Universities whose degree in law is a qualification for enrolment as an Advocate.
"Bar Council of India while discharging its function of promoting legal education and laying down standards of such education has been conferred the necessary power to prescribe, by framing rules, the standards of legal education to be observed by Universities. This rule making power would thus include the power to modify existing rules with a view to maintain and improve the standards of legal education in Universities."
While rejecting the prayer to declare that the college was not required to seek fresh approval, the bench further observed:
Rule 2(xxiv) of the Rules of 2008 defines "regular approval" to mean approval for not more than five years and includes permanent approval granted earlier before the Rules of 2008 came into force. Grant of regular approval under the Rules of 2008 pre-supposes regular inspection of a new University or any affiliated Centre of Legal Education. It is also the basis for seeking accreditation from the Bar Council of India. Permanent approval granted prior to the Rules of 2008 coming into force is now treated as regular approval that is to operate for a period of five years subject to necessary compliances being made. Approval thus granted earlier would be an existing right and not a vested right. This right of approval being purely procedural in nature, permanent approval granted prior to 2008 would therefore have to yield to the requirements prescribed by the Rules of 2008 in the matter of grant of regular approval. There is no scope to interpret said provision of regular approval as excluding permanent approval granted prior to the Rules of 2008 coming into force. In absence of there being any vested right in matters of procedure, the provisions of Rule 2(xxiv) of the Rules of 2008 which include permanent approval granted earlier would not become invalid on the anvil of retrospectivity.
Appearance: Shri M.G. Bhangde, Senior Advocate with Shri P.B. Patil, counsel for petitioners. Shri J.Y. Ghurde, Assistant Government Pleader for respondent no.1. Shri A.S. Jaiswal, Senior Advocate with Shri K.R. Narwade, counsel for respondent no.2.
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