[News Update] No need to resign from Job to enrol as Lawyers: BCI tells Supreme Court


Law graduates employed in other professions need not resign from their respective jobs to get enrolled as lawyers, the Bar Council of India (BCI) informed the Apex Court on Tuesday, adding that such people will be provided a 6-month window to quit their jobs after clearing the enrolment examination.

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The decision was taken by the Bar Council of India’s General Council on July 8, & conveyed to the Court through an affidavit filed last week, in a matter where the Supreme Court is considering a slew of reforms in the enrolment process.

The Top Court was hearing an appeal filed by BCI against a Nov 2020 decision by the High Court of Gujarat that allowed a single mother to take the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) while continuing her job.

The BCI rules say that any person who wished to take the AIBE has to first resign from the job & fill out the form for enrolment. The Supreme Court, too, frowned upon such regulations framed by the BCI & suggested on April 21 that a person giving the examination should be allowed to resign within a fixed time period upon clearing the AIBE.

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In its latest affidavit filed through Lawyer Durga Dutt, the BCI said, “The Council after thorough deliberation & consideration of issues has accepted the suggestions made by this Court & has resolved that every State Bar Council shall have three registers – A, B & C.”

It further said that ‘Register B’ will contain names of candidates who are already employed somewhere, & will be allowed to take the AIBE after giving an undertaking that they will give up their profession within 6 months of clearing the examination.

The Certificate of Practice, required for any legal practitioner, will be issued only after such persons have left employment, the BCI said. The other 2 categories in Register A & C did not concern the court, as the first category contained names of persons who are not employed elsewhere; the third category will comprise persons who have been enrolled, but will later get their license suspended to take up other jobs or professions.

As far as the third category is concerned, the BCI said such persons, who remain in some other employment for a period of 5 years or more since the announcement of the AIBE results, will be required to take the enrolment test again as & when they decide to rejoin the legal profession.

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However, this rule won't apply to persons who relinquish practice, but take up jobs otherwise linked to the legal profession, such as public prosecutor, assistant public prosecutor, judicial service, or join as law officers in corporate or government offices.

The suggestion to provide separate categorisation of persons in employment who take AIBE was suggested to the Supreme Court by amicus curiae & Senior Lawyer KV Vishwanathan, who realised that the bar on taking up any other profession should apply only at the time of legal practice, & not for taking the test.

In the appeal before the Supreme Court, a similar situation arose as a lady named Twinkle Mangaonkar, who was employed in a non-legal profession, was asked to resign in order to sit for the AIBE. She challenged this requirement before Gujarat HC, alleging that after the death of her husband, she had to look after her son & father, & it would cause severe hardship to resign as she would be left with no means for livelihood.

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Vishwanathan told the Supreme Court that the BCI affidavit is largely acceptable while suggesting minor corrections. The bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat & MM Sundresh took the affidavit on record & posted the matter for further consideration on Sept 27 to examine other aspects of the pattern of the AIBE examination, & conduct of surprise inspection of law colleges to ensure maintenance of education standards.

On these aspects too, the BCI said in its affidavit that a committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge will select an agency to conduct the examination. This committee will also examine the best way to test the skill & knowledge of the law graduates taking AIBE, based on their analytical thinking process rather than their rote ability. The next cycle of AIBE will be held in September-October this year.

With regard to the inspection of colleges, the Supreme Court noted in its April 21 order that nearly 500 institutions that provide legal education were found to be below standard. The BCI, led by its chairman & senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, told the top court that the surprise inspection team will comprise a former high court judge, law professors, & a member of the state bar council or any senior advocate having minimum 25 years of practice.

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