The Bar Council recently notified the BCI Legal Education (Post Graduate, Doctoral, Executive, Vocational, Clinical and other Continuing Education) Rules, 2020 (Rules) of India published in the Official Gazette on 2nd January 2021.
The aforesaid rules abolished the one-year LL.M course introduced in the year 2013 by the University Grant Commission. These rules of 2021 enunciate that the LL.M course would be of 2 years having four semesters in total.
As per the aforesaid rules, the one-year LL.M course will be valid till the new Regulations are notified and implemented. The Bar Council of India also introduces a new annual test called the Post Graduate Common Entrance Test in Law (PGCETL) for admission in the LLM course. The current system is to be followed until the new test is set up, the current system is to be followed. Apart from abolishing the one-year LL.M course, the rules also provide an LLM degree obtained from a Foreign University, without an equivalent LLB degree shall not be equal to an Indian LLM degree and a one-year LLM obtained from any foreign University is not equivalent to an Indian LLM degree. But if the degree is from a highly accredited Foreign University, this may entitle the person concerned to be appointed as a visiting professor at an Indian University. They should be there for at least a one-year LLM degree with one year of teaching experience as a Visiting Faculty/internee faculty/clinical faculty to get their LLM degree in India.
This decision of the Bar Council of India to abolish one-year LL.M programme and de recognise the foreign universities with the notification of the aforesaid rules has been challenged by the Consortium of National Law University and the two law students namely Tamanna Chandan Chachlani and Rishabh Soni.
The Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, firstly, heard the matter on 11th February, 20201 and adjourned it to 12th February 2021.
Summary of proceeding on 11th February 2021
The Petitioner (NLU consortium)while challenging the aforesaid rules has contented that the BCI has assumed jurisdiction to pass the aforesaid rules under the Advocates Act. However, the Petitioner contended that the BCI lacks the power to regulate any degree or academic or vocational programme, which is not a prerequisite to enrolling as an advocate in India under the aforesaid Act. Such decision is regulated by the University Grant Commission (UGC).
The Petitioner has further averred that BCI didn’t even care to consult any of the single Universities before passing the aforesaid rules.
However, the BCI contended that as the National Education policy 2020 fails to make any provision with respect to regulation of higher legal education, the BCI did it and thus, has the power to do the same. To which, the Petitioner, NLU Consortium rebutted that “the mere absence of ‘legal education’ in NEP2020 cannot ipso facto vest powers in BCI to occupy the field.”
After hearing parties, the Bench adjourned it to 12th February for hearing it on the issue of interim relief.
Summary of proceedings on 12th February 2021
The Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court recorded the submission of the Chairman of the BCI namely Mr. Manan Kumar Mishra, in its order dated 12.02.2021 that the rules under-challenged are proposed to be brought in force the next year academic session i.e. 2022 – 2023. In view of such submission, the interim order need not be passed, and thus, the matter was adjourned further for four weeks. The notice was also issued to BCI for seeking its response in the present matter.