LEGAL EDUCATION SYSTEM
Tarleen Kaur, Palakdeep Kaur
”The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence”Rabindranath Tagore
Law is the most powerful and effective tool for bringing revolution in society by peaceful means. Besides settlement of disputes, law ensures a safe environment for citizens at all levels of the society. Legal education prepares the students for being the ‘ambassadors of social change’. It tries to accomplish this by preparing students to fulfill various roles of the society which includes- Judges, Lawyers, Public service, Corporate executives, Politicians, NGO operators etc. Legal education thus has a huge onus to provide the required expertise to students for effectuating the aforesaid roles.
Role and functions of BCI according to The Advocates Act, 1961
BCI is a statutory body which was established under Sec. 4 of The Advocates Act, 1961. Section 14 of the Act provides that no election of a member to a Bar Council shall be called in question on the ground merely that due notice thereof has not been given to any person entitled to vote thereat , if notice of the date has, not less than thirty days before that date, been published in the Official Gazette.
Among the various statutory functions assigned to the BCI under Sec. 7 of the Act, Sec. 7(h) and 7(i) deal with the legal education. Sec 7(h) authorizes it ‘to promote legal education and to lay down standards of legal education in consultation with the Universities in India imparting legal education and the State Bar Councils. Sec. 7(i) empowers it ‘to recognize Universities whose degree in law shall be a qualification for enrollment as an advocate and also to visit and inspect such Universities for this purpose. Further, Sec. 49 prescribes general rules for the functioning of BCI, hence providing it with the regulatory powers. Sec. 49 (d) of the Act empowers it to discharge its functions in respect of the – ‘the standards of legal education to be observed by universities in India and the inspection of universities for that purpose’. Sec. 24 (1) mentions qualifications and conditions for persons to be admitted as an advocate on a State roll provided-
- He is a citizen of India.
- He has obtained his Law degree from a University recognized by Bar Council of India.
Different Committees have been constituted by the Bar Council of India under The Advocates Act for providing recommendations to the Council. These include- Disciplinary Committees, an Executive Committee and a Legal Education Committee under Sections 9, 10 (2) (a) and 10 (2) (b) of the Act respectively.
Role played by BCI in widening the scope of legal education
The efforts made by BCI have made a paradigm shift in the augmentation of the legal education. These include-
Firstly, the BCI endeavored and made a bold experiment of establishing National Law School at Bangalore under the NLSIU Act, 1986, which brought an unprecedented success in the realm of legal education. This acted as a catalyst for setting up of many more such schools pan- India.
Secondly, The Bar Council of India Trust was created by BCI on 27th April, 1974 to establish quality Law schools, to promote teaching and research in Law, to provide legal aid to the poor, scholarships to worthy students and to publish various law reports and books for students undergoing the training of the profession. It organizes various academic workshops as well as a National Moot Court Competition each year to enhance practicing and advocacy skills in students. In addition, BCI enabled the introduction of a five-year integrated L.L.B. Course. In pursuance of this, various new subjects were introduced in this field.
In 2006, in reply to a PIL, the Chief Justice of India directed the Union of India to conduct a common test, CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) for admission in NLUs, which was supported by BCI. In June 2020, The Delhi High Court asked BCI to take decision of conducting CLAT in vernacular languages. So, BCI has recently constituted a Committee to study the viability. BCI is of the view that English should not be a deterrent for giving CLAT.
Besides this, in 2008, BCI devised a set of rules in order to set standards for all Law colleges, which were referred to as ‘Centres of Legal Education’ under these rules.
Ultimately, BCI created the Draft of Rules of Legal Education 2019, with a view to substitute the earlier rules of 2008 and to improve the standards of academic excellence in the field of legal education. These rules were devised in order to strengthen accelerated global integration in the world economy, make municipal laws sensitive to international principles, encourage professional legal education for speedy justice and focus on super-specializations in various branches of law.
Also read: COVID-19 AND ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
Deficiencies in the legal education system in India
In spite of the above mentioned development acts, still there are shortcomings regarding the work done by BCI-
In the first place, the curriculum is still conventional and lacks certain areas of law, which are extremely important from the global point of view like election laws, cyber laws, laws concerning socio- economic offences etc. With globalization taking place, the need has arisen for the establishment of new laws in various other fields like IPR, IT, banking, taxation, arbitration etc. Legal education is facing challenges to keep pace with these developments. Furthermore, the Rules of Legal Education 2019 are just the modification of older ones and nothing new has been added for the development of legal education at the global level.
Although, the setting up of NLUs has taken the standards of legal education to another level but besides that there are 1200 more law colleges in the country where the standard of education is not uniform. The research aspect of law is not encouraged in such colleges and conventional system of teaching is followed. Students study only for marks and least emphasis is laid upon the development of their analytical and legal skills. The faculty is not as per requirement in most of the law colleges and the libraries are not well equipped.
BCI under clause 28, schedule III of the Rules of legal education, 2008 has put an upper age limit for admission in law colleges. In Rishabh Duggal v. BCI & others, the petitioner had challenged this provision for being arbitrary and in contravention of fundamental rights of students under Article 14, 19(1) (g) and 21 of The Constitution of India. It was held by Supreme Court that the BCI should reconsider the upper age limit for the admission to the LLB courses. While passing the aforesaid direction the Bench was of the view that there was no age to acquire education and that children belonging to the economically weaker section would be disadvantaged by the upper age limit.
Earlier, BCI provided for pre-enrolment training and apprenticeship as a condition precedent for admission as advocate on roll of state bar council. In V Sudheer v. BCI, the court held that although the promotion of legal education is one of the statutory functions of the BCI, but it should be carried on in consultation with the universities and the provisions of the act do not empower the BCI itself to frame such rules, thus terming the impugned rules as an ultra vires act.
BCI has played a pivotal role in the development of legal education in India. But still, more constructive work is required from BCI so that law students can be prepared to meet the rapid changes in future. Here are some suggestions regarding that. The deficient areas in the curriculum need to be fixed. It must be made sure that the norm of compulsory attendance is actually followed. A uniform method for the admissions ought to be followed in all the law schools. Students are required to be provided with the skills like analytical thinking, computer and IT should be introduced in the practice of teaching. Moreover, students have to be encouraged to develop skills like public speaking and mooting. Better libraries in law colleges with enhanced physical and digital resources are a necessity in the contemporary education system. BCI needs to collaborate with foreign universities for student exchange programs, so that the students can meet with the rapid global transformation in legal field.
If essential changes are made by BCI, legal education will surely produce skilled lawyers who will be able to meet the global standards and be ready for contingencies.