The Bar Council of India is a statutory body that was created and established by Parliament under the Advocates Act, 1961 to regulate the legal practice and legal education in India.
It regulates legal education and professional standards in India including directing the State Bar Councils, standardizing law education and course framework at the universities and law colleges in India as well as conducting the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) to grant ‘Certificate of Practice’ to advocates practicing law in India.
Structure of Bar Council of India
The Bar Council of India consists of 18 members. The Attorney General of India and the Solicitor General of India are Ex-officio members of the council and the other 16 members represent the 16 State Bar Councils in the country. The members are elected for five years and the chairman and vice-chairman are elected for two years from among the members of the Bar Council of India. The Bar Council further consists of various committees viz., Legal Education Committee, Disciplinary Committee, Executive Committee, Legal Aid Committee, Advocates Welfare Fund Committee, Rules Committee and various other committees forms to look into specific issues arising from time to time. The present Chairman of BCI is Manan Kumar Mishra.
Functions of Bar Council of India
The following statutory functions under Section 7 of Advocates Act, 1961 cover the Bar Council’s regulatory and representative mandate for the legal profession and legal education in India:
- To lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates
- To lay down the procedure to be followed by its disciplinary committee and the disciplinary committee of each State Bar Councils
- To safeguard the rights, privileges, and interests of advocates
- To promote and support law reform
- To deal with and dispose of any matter arising under this act, which may be referred to it by a State Bar Council
- To exercise general supervision and control over State Bar Councils
- To promote legal education and to lay down standards of legal education. This is done in consultation with the universities in India imparting legal education and the State Bar Councils
- To recognize universities whose degree in law will be a qualification for enrolment as an advocate. The Bar Council of India visits and inspects universities, or directs the State Bar Councils to visit and inspect universities for this purpose
- To conduct seminars and talks on legal topics by eminent jurists and publish journals and papers of legal interest
- To organize legal aid to the poor
- To recognize on a reciprocal basis, the foreign qualifications in law obtained outside India to admission as an advocate in India
- To manage and invest the funds of the Bar Council
- To provide for the election of its members who will run the Bar Councils
In Ex-Captain Harish Uppal v. Union of India, the supreme court made it clear that no bar association has the power to call for a strike, the court held that section 7 provides in respect of the functions of the Bar Council of India, but none of its functions mentioned in section authorizes it to paralyze the working of courts.
Committees of Bar Council of India
The Bar Council of India has various committees that make recommendations to the council. The members of these committees are elected from amongst the members of the council. The Advocates act, 1961 mentions the creation of a disciplinary committee under section 9, a legal education committee and an executive committee under section 10. These three committees are as follows:
The disciplinary committee of the BCI hears the applications for revision by persons against summary dismissal of their complaints against advocates for professional misconduct, by the State Bar Councils.
Appeals lie before the BCI against orders of the disciplinary committee of the State Bar Councils. Every such appeal is heard by the disciplinary committee of the BCI, which may pass an order, including an order varying the punishment awarded by the disciplinary committee of the State Bar Councils.
Each disciplinary committee consists of three members. The term of the members of this committee is three years.
The legal education committee consists of five members of the BCI and five co-opted members to represent the judiciary, the law ministry, the UGC, and academia. The committee makes recommendations to the BCI on all matters of legal education in the country. The committee elects its own chairman.
The legal education committee has the power:
- To make recommendations to the council for laying down the standards of legal education for universities
- To visit and inspect universities and report the results to the council.
- To recommend to the Council the conditions subject to which foreign qualification in law obtained by persons other than citizens of India may be recognised.
- To recommend to the Council for recognition of any degree in law of any University in the territory of India.
- To recommend the discontinuance of recognition of any University already made by the Council.
The executive committee is the executive authority of the council and handles giving effect to the resolutions of the council. Members of the executive committee are elected from amongst the members of the BCI. The committee elects its chairman and vice-chairman.
The executive committee has the power:
- To manage the funds of the council
- To invest the funds of the Council in the manner directed by the Council from time to time
- To grant leave to the members of the staff, other than casual leave
- To prescribe books of account, registers, and files for the proper management of the affairs of the Council
- To appoint and supervise the work of the members of the staff and prescribe their conditions of service
- To appoint auditors and fix their remuneration
- To consider the annual audit report and place it before the Council with its comments for its consideration
- To maintain a library and under the directions of the Council, publish any journal, treatise, or pamphlets on legal subjects
- To prepare and place before the Council, the annual administration report and the statement of account
- To provide for proper annual inspection of the office and its registers
- To authorize the Secretary to incur expenditure within prescribed limits
- To fix traveling and other allowances to members of the committees of the Council, and to members of the staff
- To delegate to the Chairman and/or the Vice-Chairman any of its aforementioned powers
- To do all other things necessary for discharging the aforesaid functions
The Bar Council of India played a vital role in developing and improving the legal service and legal education in India. It was the first initiative where it provided court visits, moot courts, legal aid, discipline, training programs for law graduates and many more. BCI has structured legal education as it exists today. The BCI which stands as the pillar to support quality legal education should be provided with more powers and authorities such that the Indian legal system will enhance and be cherished.