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.