18 July 2023 6:11 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has transferred to itself the petitions pending in the High Courts of Kerala, Madras and Bombay challenging the enrolment fee charged by State Bar Councils. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice Manoj Misra passed the order on Monday allowing the transfer plea filed by the Bar Council of India. The cases transferred consist of...
The Supreme Court has transferred to itself the petitions pending in the High Courts of Kerala, Madras and Bombay challenging the enrolment fee charged by State Bar Councils. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice Manoj Misra passed the order on Monday allowing the transfer plea filed by the Bar Council of India.
The cases transferred consist of separate ongoing petitions concerning the issue of high enrolment fee of State Bar Councils in the Kerala High Court, the Bombay High Court, and the Madras High Court.
Recently, the Kerala High Court directed the Bar Council of Kerala to collect only Rs.750/- as enrolment fee from law graduates wishing to enroll, till the Bar Council of India considers a uniform fee structure. The order was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice S V N Bhatti and Justice Basant Balaji in an appeal filed by the Bar Council of Kerala against the order of single judge restricting the enrolment fee to Rs. 750/-. The petitioners had challenged the exorbitant fee of Rs. 15,900/- being levied by the Kerala Bar Council on the ground that an enrolment fees of Rs. 750/- has been imposed under Section 24(1)(f) of the Advocates’ Act. Any rule passed by Bar Council of Kerala, giving itself the authority to levy a higher charge is beyond the scope of its powers, the petitioners had argued.
Further, the Madras High Court has directed the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to respond to a plea by Manimaran, a fifth-year law student, challenging the enrollment fee charged by it from law graduates. The bench of Acting Chief Justice T Raja and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy had prima facie agreed that the amount was high and issued notice on the petition. The Bar Council of India and the state government were issued notice by the court.
In a similar vein, the Bombay High Court had also issued notice in a lawyer's petition challenging the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa's (BCMG) decision to enhance enrolment charges to Rs 15,000, as effective from January 2020.
All these cases now stand transferred to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court had previously questioned the State Bar Councils for charging more fees than that prescribed by Section 24(1)(e) of the Advocates Act 1961. According to this provision, the enrolment fee payable to the State Bar Council should be Rs. 600, with the Bar Council of India charging Rs. 150. The court, therefore, had expressed surprise at the substantial disparities between the prescribed fees and the fees being charged in various states.
Notably, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, while upholding the All India Bar Examination, had asked the Bar Council of India to ensure that the enrolment fee does not become "oppressive".
"We also have one caveat arising from the plea that different State Bar Councils are charging different fees for enrolment. This is something which needs the attention of the Bar Council of India, which is not devoid of the powers to see that a uniform pattern is observed and the fee does not become oppressive at the threshold of young students joining the Bar", the Constitution Bench judgment led by Justice SK Kaul had observed in the judgment (Bar Council of India v. Bonnie Foi Law College & Ors.)