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'Exorbitant Enrolment Fees': Uttarakhand High Court Issues Notice To BCI, State Bar Council

Aaratrika Bhaumik
30 July 2021 8:30 AM GMT
Exorbitant Enrolment Fees: Uttarakhand High Court Issues Notice To BCI, State Bar Council
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The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the validity of Bar Council of Uttarakhand Rules for levying exorbitantly high registration fees on law graduates for the process of enrolment. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma accordingly issued notice to the Bar Council of...

The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the validity of Bar Council of Uttarakhand Rules for levying exorbitantly high registration fees on law graduates for the process of enrolment.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma accordingly issued notice to the Bar Council of Uttarakhand, the Bar Council of India, the Union and the State government and directed them to file a reply within 4 weeks.

The PIL has been filed by Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, a Dehradun based social service organisation. The plea pointed out that the Advocates Act, 1961 under Section 24(1)(f) directs State Bar Councils to only charge Rs. 750 as enrolment fees. However, contrary to the statutory directions, the Uttarakhand Bar Council charges enrolment fees of Rs. 18,650 from general candidates, Rs. 15,525 from reserved category candidates, Rs. 38,650 from male candidates above 40 years of age and Rs 33,650 from women candidates above 40 years of age.

"Any fees or charge being taken from any candidate seeking registration as an Advocate beyond the statutory provisions is illegal and cannot be levied by the respondent Bar Council as a condition precedent for enrolment as an Advocate", the plea states.

The petitioner submitted that the grievance raised is directly and intricately related to the fundamental right to equality, profession and life as guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution of India. Further, the levy of such high enrolment fees by the State Bar Council is arbitrary and illegal and in contravention of Section 24(f) of the Advocates Act, 1961.

It was further contended that the legislature intended to make enrolment fees affordable for all classes of people and also maintain uniformity in such levy across the country. As a result, by defying the statutory provisions mentioned above, the State Bar Council has acted in a mala fide manner, the plea stated.

Further the petitioner also submitted that the State Bar Council Rules differentiates amongst candidates on the basis of age which amounts to an unreasonable classification and is thus unconstitutional.

"An unreasonable classification has been created by the respondent authorities on the basis of age of the person seeking Enrolment as an Advocate. Providing an unreasonable classification on the basis of age of 40 years and charging additional charge of Rs 20,000 from the applicants who are above 40 years is unreasonable and in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India', the plea contends.

Reference was also made to the enrolment fees charged by other regulatory bodies in various other professions- the Uttarakhand Medical Council charges Rs. 3,000 as enrolment fees and the Engineering Council of India charges Rs. 6,000 as enrolment fees. Accordingly, the plea stated that the State Bar Council charges an exorbitantly high enrolment fees in comparison to other professions.

Enumerating upon the discrimination faced by economically weaker law graduates, the petitioner contended,

"The high enrolment fees prevents many law graduates from enrolment for the reason of paucity of funds and it shall result to the denial of justice for them. Such denial to access to justice by way of providing unaffordable high fees is also in violation of the fundamental right to carry on a profession."

A similar petition challenging the enrolment fee prescribed by the Delhi Bar Council had been filed before the concerned High Court in January 2020. 

The petitioner is represented by Advocate Kartikey Hari Gupta.

Case Title: Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttarakhand and Ors

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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