The Kerala High Court, in an important judgment which was delivered in November last year (uploaded recently in the website), has held that collection of special fee from those retired employees who seek enrolment as lawyers is unauthorised and illegal. The court directed the State Bar Council to refund such fee collected by it, if such a request is made before it.
Thomas Koshy, after his retirement from Central Government employment, pursued LLB course, as it was his dream to wear the lawyer’s robe, which he could not do in his youthful days.
He completed the course successfully from Government Law College, Ernakulam. When it came to applying for enrolment as a lawyer, Koshy found that he is being discriminated as the Bar Council stipulated a special fee of about Rs. 40,000 to be paid by him.
Though he paid the fee as demanded to realise his dream to become a part of legal fraternity, he later challenged the special fee levy before the High Court of Kerala and also sought refund on the ground that the collection of the impugned special fee for enrolment is ultra vires and unauthorised.
Justice Alexander Thomas heard his petition, along with similar writ petitions preferred by people like him, and observed that the provision that purportedly authorises the collection of special fee from those candidates who seek enrolment would certainly be flagrant and blatant violation of the provisions contained in Sec. 24(1)(f) of the Advocates Act and clearly and totally beyond the rule-making power of either the State Bar Councils or that of the Bar Council of India.
With regard to non-publication of amended Rules by Bar Council of Kerala, the court remarked: “The members of the legal profession are the high priests for upholding the rule of law. Therefore, the Apex statutory regulatory body of legal professionals in the state should also be in the forefront for upholding rule of law. It has not been seriously disputed by the respondent State Bar Council regarding the submission made by various advocates appearing for the writ petitioners herein that the present amended rule has not been published even in the official website maintained by the Bar Council of Kerala. This state of affairs should not be viewed lightly by the State Bar Council authorities, concerned. Without due publication of the rules, it will give rise to various confusions as regards the enforceability of the rules and even about the very existence of the rules and as to what exactly was the original text of the rules as it was framed under rule by the authorities concerned.”