State Govt and BCI clash over age limit in law admissions

The row over age limit for admissions in 3 year LLB course and 5 year BA LLB course, which erupted after Bar Council of India (BCI) refused to grant license to over aged students for practising law does not seem to subside in near future.

According to standard of Legal Education Rules laid down by BCI in 20008, students above 20 at the time of admission in 3 year LLB course and those above 30 in BA LLB course (the rule was relaxed for SC/ST candidate to 35 years) won’t be granted license to practise law in courts, thereby rendering their purpose of admission almost to nullity.

bar council of india, law admissionsThe age limit, however, had not been mentioned in state government’s brochure and was added at the behest of BCI. This led to much furore by over aged students and also various petitions in court.

In fact, Maharashtra is not new to controversy and earlier different High Courts ranging from Madras to Punjab & Haryana too had entertained the similar grievances, much to the chagrin of BCI. The genesis of the controversy lies in Clause 28, Schedule III of Rules on Standards of Legal Education (Rules) framed under the Advocates Act, 1961. This provision was challenged in Punjab & Haryana High Court in 2011 and was declared as arbitrary and therefore void.

Bombay High Court too, relying on the decision of Punjab & Haryana High Court declared the rule to be invalid and non-existent. This decision had flowed from the decision of Madras High Court which was challenged by the BCI in Supreme Court of India. The bench headed by JS Khehar and Rohinton Fali Nariman in the apex court too dismissed the petition of BCI.

Interestingly, a one man committee appointed by BCI too had held the clause was violative of Article 14 of Indian Constitution.

Thus the state of Maharashtra decided to conduct the first round of admissions under a centralised admission process (CAP) without considering the aspirants’ ages. But BCI warned law colleges that ‘over-aged students won’t get a chance to practise law, prompting the state to take a stand on the matter.’

The state government has clarified that the age criteria will be relaxed for this year’s law admissions, thereby effectively going against the declaration of BCI.

Answering for the BCI, Satish Deshmukh, a member of BCI’s Legal Education Committee said that, “We left it for the state to decide if it wants to admit over-aged students. But we won’t give them license to practice law, once they graduate.”

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