12 May 2023 2:05 PM GMT
In a plea challenging the high enrollment fee charged by state bar councils for new lawyers, the Supreme Court on Friday asked how could the State Bar Councils charge more than the fee prescribed by Section 24(1)(e) of the Advocates Act 1961, which prescribe that the enrolment fee payable to the State Bar Council is Rs 600 and the Bar Council of India is Rs 150.Expressing concerns at...
In a plea challenging the high enrollment fee charged by state bar councils for new lawyers, the Supreme Court on Friday asked how could the State Bar Councils charge more than the fee prescribed by Section 24(1)(e) of the Advocates Act 1961, which prescribe that the enrolment fee payable to the State Bar Council is Rs 600 and the Bar Council of India is Rs 150.
Expressing concerns at the exorbitant fee, the bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha directed State Bar Councils to file their responses in the matter and also an affidavit providing details of the amount of money collected by them in a year.
At the very outset, CJI DY Chandrachud remarked–
"I think the Bar Council of India has to intervene because the State Bar Council's are charging huge amounts for enrollment...How will a Dalit student or a student from rural background afford this?"
The court then enquired as to how much money was being collected by the state bar councils per year. When Senior Advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, who is the Chairman of Bar Council of India, submitted before the bench that the enrollment fee was only a one time payment and none of the bar councils charged anything after that, CJI DY Chandrachud said –
"We understand that it is a one time payment but how much does it work out to per year? How many advocates get in rolled per year multiplied by the Bar Council fee – that is what we are asking."
The CJI expressed his surprise at the fact that the enrollment fee in Odisha was Rs. 42,000 and Rs. 23,000 in Jharkhand. He said–
"The enrollment fee is a fee which you pay for being enrolled to the bar. They can't say that well we will give you books and therefore we are charging more."
Accordingly, the court directed the State bar Councils which have not filed their replies already to do so within a period of four weeks, failing which, their right to reply shall stand forfeited and the petition shall proceed on the basis that they have nothing further to add.
While asking the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the court with the matter, CJI DY Chandrachud orally remarked-
"It is a very important issue because law is a public service oriented profession. Our concern is that if you are charging these kind of fees, imagine somebody who has to pay Rs.25,000 or Rs.40,000 for enrolment..."
SG Mehta added–
"Another angle which your lordships could examine is the very nature of fee should be commensurate with the services rendered."
While citing Section 24(1)(e) of the Advocates Act, 1961, CJI DY Chandrachud said–
"This is a statutory provision. This is not been altered...Can we say that the statute says Rs.600 but that is now subject to the inflationary escalation every year? This is what the statute says. It cannot be more than that. If it is to be more than that, then the statute has to be amended".
BCI Chairman responded that the provision does not account for the inflation.
Justice Narasimha stated –
"The statute does not permit you to do that. There is no option."
The Court was hearing a PIL filed by Gaurav Kumar. In an earlier hearing, the petitioner had illustrated the non-uniform nature of the enrolment fees by showing that in Odisha, it is Rs 42,100; in Gujarat it is Rs.25,000; in Uttarakhand it is Rs 23,650; in Jharkhand it is Rs 21,460; in Kerala it is Rs.20,000.
Recently, the Kerala High Court had passed an interim order restraining the Kerala Bar Council from charging more than Rs 750 as enrolment fee from few petitioners, who challenged the fee.
Case Title : Gaurav Kumar vs Union of India | W.P.(C) No. 352/2023
Click here to read the order