National Law Schools and Legal Education in India

In India, legal education refers to the education to a legal professional before they enrol as advocate or before they commence their legal practice. In India, legal education is offered at various levels by specialised national law schools (national law universities) or through traditional universities or through private universities.

In traditional universities legal education is offered at two different courses. These courses are generally called 3 year LL.B or 5 year integrated LL.B. Anyone who has completed the 12th standard with minimum 50% marks and who has not completed the age of 20 can join for 5 year integrated LL.B courses.

Some of the traditional universities offer this as a twin degree course where the student gets a basic degree after the third year (which is equivalent to that of any other graduation) and LL.B degree after the fifth year. However, there are other universities which offer a honours degree at the end of fifth year. For example; B.A, LL.B (Hons.), BBA, LL.B (Hons.), B.Com, LL.B (Hons.) etc. Simultaneously, those who have completed any graduation with a minimum of 50% marks can enrol for 3 year LL.B course.

In the late 1980’s the concept of specialised universities for imparting legal education was evolved and national law schools are established exclusively for imparting legal education in India. India’s first national law school was established in Bangalore under the provisions of National Law School of India Act, 1986 and the first batch was admitted to five year integrated LL.B course.

At present there are 18 national law schools in India. Till 2008, admissions to these national law schools are through separate entrance examination conducted by each national law schools. However, since 2008 all the national law schools (except National Law University, Delhi) jointly conducting a common entrance examination called Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admitting students to LL.B as well as LL.M courses.

Now the admissions to national law schools (except National Law University, Delhi) are through CLAT and a centralised allotment system is adopted for seat allotment. However, except National Law University, Delhi conducts a separate entrance test through which they screen the candidates before admitting to the LL.B or LL.M course.

At present, in India, there are around 900 law colleges in India for imparting legal education. However, it is necessary to note that, in order to consider a law degree as a valid degree and to get enrolled as an advocate, the course has to be approved by the Bar Council of India (BCI) and University Grants Commission (UGC). Further, even the college or the institute which offering the law degree shall have the Bar Council accreditation and UGC approval.

All those who have completed LL.B on or after 2010 shall now undergo an all India examination called All India Bar Examination (AIBE) in order to get enrolled as advocate in the roll of Bar Council. Only then he can practice as an advocate and file vakalatnama in his name.

Advocate sentenced to Jail for abusing Woman Colleague

A bench of Justices T S Thakur and Adarsh K Goel of the Apex Court send a strong signal against incidents of harassment of women particularly in court premises, while dismissing an appeal by a lawyer against a week-long jail term in a case of misdemeanour against a woman colleague in Delhi High Court in 2012.

Apex Court has upheld imprisonment of an advocate who had been sentenced to seven days imprisonment for criminal contempt charges, where he allegedly abused and slapped a woman lawyer during proceeding before the joint registrar. Way back in January 13, 2012 advocate is accused of physically abusing a female colleague and behaving indecently during a hearing before a High Court Registrar.

High Court on the same day acting suo motu sent the accused to jail for a week and debarred him from practising in any Delhi court for three months. Further, court also directed the Bar Council of India, which is the apex disciplinary authority for lawyers, to take necessary action against the accused.

Earlier High Court convicted the accused saying that, his actions had interfered with judicial procedure, obstructed justice and lowered the majesty of the Court; the high court had convicted him of contempt of court. However, in his appeal to the Apex Court, he challenged the High Court order on the ground that, his conduct did not strictly fall under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, and the incident took place when the two lawyers were working together and the registrar was not present. Further, he submitted that, the incident happened on the spur of the moment and his client regretted his behaviour and any disciplinary action against him could come only from the Bar Council and not the court.

Bar Council of India (BCI) not bound to grant license to practice law

A bench of justices M Y Eqbal and Abhay Manohar Sapre of Supreme Court held that, “Pursuing law and practicing it are two different things”. Supreme Court has said and made it clear that the Bar Council of India (BCI) is not bound to grant advocacy license unless an applicant fulfills the criteria laid down by it.

Further, the Court opined that, “Pursuing law and practicing law are two different things. One can pursue law but for the purpose of obtaining license to practice, he or she must fulfill all the requirements and conditions prescribed by the Bar Council of India. We do not find any reason to differ with the view taken by the High Court. In the facts of the case, we do not find any merit in the appeal, which is accordingly dismissed.

It was a case where BCI had denied the license to Archana Girish Sabnis, a Law graduate from Mumbai University, to practice law on the ground that her degree of Licentiate of the Court of Examiners in Homeopathy Medicines (LCEH), awarded by Maharashtra Council of Homeopathy, was not equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree.

She had contended that the Mumbai University had allowed her admission in the LL.B course after considering LCEH degree equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree. However court was of the opinion that, “We … After giving our anxious consideration in the matter are of the definite opinion that the BCI is not bound to grant a license as claimed by the appellant”.

The apex court upheld the Bombay High Court order saying that “the Bar Council has the independent power to recognise any equivalent qualification to a graduate degree for the purpose of admission in the course of graduate degree in law“.

It also allowed the plea of BCI that Mumbai University, while granting admission to Archana in LL.B course, was bound to consult the lawyers’ body instead of Homeopathy Council.

It said the law “specifically empowers the Bar Council of India to make rules prescribing a minimum qualification required for admission for the course of degree in law from any recognised university“.

BCI has reiterated that the professional course LCEH is not considered equivalent to degree course, the court said.

BCI forbids internships outside university vacations

Prachi Kumari

On 11 September, 2014 The Bar Council of India (BCI) send a letter to the registrars and heads of all law schools, and to the secretaries of all state bar councils and has directed law schools to forbid their students from undertaking internships outside of their university vacations.

The BCI wrote: “It is noticed that some of the Universities/Colleges are sending their students for internship during academic session. The students can only take internship during the vacation (academic session is not on). The Universities/Colleges are directed that henceforth they should send their students for internship to the Law Firms, Senior Advocates only when there is a vacation of Universities/Colleges.”

According to BCI secretary Jogi Ram Sharma, “As per university rules students are supposed to go on internships. But when the academic session is on, if few go for internship, while the rest are having classes, how will the shortage of students in a lecture be accounted [for]? So all students should go for internships together during the vacations and not turn by turn.”

It appears that law students have adopted the tendency of collecting more and more internship certificates. In this era of cut throat competition, every student is apprehensive about his/her career and job. Since companies, during placement, prefer those candidates who are having work experience, students take their internships as grand addition to their CV. Therefore they run after it even during academic sessions. Although practical knowledge broadens our concept, a balancing approach is required to be adopted. Knowledge of law is equally important in order to apply it. Internship during academic session takes the time away from students and affects intense study. Subsequently, they study only at the time of examination for the sake of obtaining marks. This is alarming situation, because country requires a large number of well- versed lawyers in order to settle down thousands of pending cases. This is why; BCI is concerned about this tendency of avoiding classes for the sake of internships.

I think this new direction will bring a balancing phenomenon, where every student can have equal number of internships and no one will have to give up his/her classes in order to compete other in number game of internships. Hopefully, law students will attend their classes even after fulfilling minimum attendance criteria.