A division Bench of the Supreme Court has relied on the judgment in Bar Council of India versus Bonnie Foi Law College & Ors(2023), and held that the BCI’s role prior to enrolment cannot be ousted and the ratio decidendi in V. Sudeer, that it was not one of the statutory functions of the Bar Council of India to frame rules imposing pre-enrolment conditions, was erroneous.
ON Friday, a vacation Bench of the Supreme Court set aside a decision of the Orissa High Court allowing a person to enrol as an advocate with the Orissa Bar Council despite the fact that he secured his law degree from a college which was not recognised by the Bar Council of India (BCI).
The Bench, comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Kumar, was ruling on an appeal filed by the BCI against the decision of the Orissa High Court passed on September 21, 2012. The Supreme Court had stayed the high court’s order on January 28, 2013.
Rabi Sahu, who was a respondent before the Supreme Court, had secured his law degree from Vivekananda Law College, Angul, in 2009. This college was not recognised or approved by BCI.
The judgment notes that the BCI, through a letter dated January 5, 2022 had directed Vivekananda Law College, Angul, not to admit students in law courses, stating that students so admitted would not be eligible for enrolment as advocates.
The same direction was reiterated by the BCI on February 28, 2011 in a letter addressed to Orissa State Bar Council.
Following the BCI’s instruction, the Orissa State Bar Council rejected the application of Sahu for enrolment as an advocate. Sahu challenged the rejection before the Orissa High Court.
The high court relied upon a decision of the Supreme Court inV. Sudeer versus Bar Council of India and another (1999) to opine that once a candidate has fulfilled the conditions stipulated inSection 24(1) (conditions for a person to qualify as an advocate on a state roll) of the Advocates Act, 1961, and does not suffer any disqualification underSection 24A (disqualification for enrolment as an advocate), they are entitled to enrolment as an advocate.
The high court further held that the BCI could not frame rules and add any condition for enrolment in addition to what was prescribed under Section 24 of the Act of 1961. The high court thus allowed the petition filed by Sahu.
The Constitution Bench held that the BCI’s role prior to enrolment cannot be ousted and the ratio decidendi in V. Sudeer, that it was not one of the statutory functions of the BCI to frame rules imposing pre-enrolment conditions, was erroneous.
The Supreme Court underscored, “It was categorically held thatSection 49 read, with Section 24(3)(d) of the Act of 1961 vested [the] BCI with the power to prescribe the norms for entitlement to be enrol(l)ed as an advocate and in consequence, the interdict placed by the decision in V. Sudeer on the power of BCI could not be sustained.
“The Constitution Bench, accordingly, held that V. Sudeer did not lay down the correct position of law.”
The division Bench of the Supreme Court has thus held that the rule framed by the BCI requiring a candidate for enrolment as an advocate to have completed his law course from a college recognised or approved by the BCI cannot be said to be invalid.
Interestingly, neither Sahu nor the Orissa Bar Council chose to appear before the Supreme Court despite service of the notice upon them.
Click here to read the Supreme Court’s Order in the Bar Council of India versus Rabi Sahi and Another