Special Fee For Enrolment Of Retired Employees By Bar Council Illegal: SC Upholds Kerala HC Judgment

Special Fee For Enrolment Of Retired Employees By Bar Council Illegal: SC Upholds Kerala HC Judgment

"Once the legislature has prescribed enrolment fee, another fee, be it called a special fee or anything else, can legitimately be prescribed by a State Bar Council or any other authority only if there is an express legislative sanction therefor." (Kerala HC Judgment)

The Supreme Court has dismissed the special leave petitions filed by the Bar Council of Kerala against the Kerala High Court ruling that collection of special fee from those retired employees who seek enrolment as lawyers is unauthorised and illegal.

Earlier this month, the bench comprising of Justice AK Sikri and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer dismissed in limine a batch of SLPs filed by the Bar Council in this regard.

T.Koshy, a retired Central government employee, had approached the High Court of Kerala challenging the demand raised by the Bar council of Kerala to pay special fee of Rs. 40,000 for getting enrolled as a lawyer. Many others had also approached the High Court challenging the special fee demand by the Bar council.

The amount of 'special fee' prescribed by the Bar Council varied depending on candidates seeking enrolment after 5 years and below 10 years from the date of passing the LLB degree, candidates seeking enrolment after 10 years from passing the LLB degree, candidates who had retired from service seeking enrolment after attaining the age of superannuation whose last drawn monthly gross salary is up to Rs.60,000/-, candidates who had retired from service seeking enrolment after attaining the age of superannuation whose last drawn monthly gross salary was above Rs.60,000/-, those who had undergone course for law degree after retirement from service and those who had voluntarily retired from service/employment in India or abroad, etc.

In November 2016, the single bench of the High Court presided by Justice Alexander Thomas had allowed the writ petition filed by several lawyers and had 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 Section 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. The court had also directed the council to refund the special fee to those who already paid it.

In April last year, the division bench comprising of the then Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu had later upheld the single bench judgment, observing that once the legislature has prescribed enrolment fee, another fee, be it called a special fee or anything else, can legitimately be prescribed by a State Bar Council or any other authority only if there is an express legislative sanction. The bench had dismissed the appeal filed by Bar council holding that the prescription of special fee is totally ultra vires its powers as conferred under the Advocates Act, 1961.

Read SC Order


Read Kerala HC Judgment