Bar Council of India: Powers and Functions

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The Bar Council of India (BCI) is a statutory body that regulates and represents the Indian Bar. It was established under section 4 of the Advocates Act, 1961. The headquarter of BCI is in New Delhi. It is headed by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman. The present Chairman and Vice-Chairman are Manan Kumar Mishra and Satish A. Deshmukh respectively.

BCI was made to prescribe a standard of professional conduct, etiquette and exercise disciplinary jurisdiction. BCI additionally sets standards for legal education and gives recognition to Universities whose degree in law fills in as a qualification for students to enrol themselves as advocates after graduation.

BCI comes under the domain of Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India and it is a corporate body having an interminable succession and a common seal. The BCI has constituted a few committees, for example, the Education Committee, the Disciplinary Committee, the Executive Committee, the Legal Aid Committee, the Advocates Welfare Fund Committee, the Rules Committee, and different Committees framed to look after the explicit issues emerging every once in a while.

Formation of BCI

The need for All India Bar was felt just after the enforcement of the Constitution of India. In the annual meeting of Inter-University Board held in Madras, a resolution was passed for the need of an All Indian Bar and it was also emphasized that there should be uniformity in law examination conducted by different universities of the country.

In May 1950, the Madras Provincial Lawyers Conference was held under the administration of S. Varadachariar settled that the Government of India ought to appoint an advisory group to develop a scheme for an All India Bar and changing the Indian Bar Council Act to acquire its congruity with the new constitution. At its gathering held on October 1, 1950, the Bar Council of Madras embraced a resolution.

Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi, a Member of Parliament, on April 12, 1951, introduced a comprehensive bill to amend the Indian Bar Councils Act. In August 1951, the then Law Minister proposed to set a committee of Inquiry to go into the problem in detail. The committee was asked to prepare a report on the various aspects like the desirability and feasibility of a unified Bar for the whole India; the establishment of a separate Bar Council for the Supreme court; and all the related matters. This All India Bar Committee was led by the Justice S.R. Das and had other seven members. The committee submitted its detailed report on 30 March 1953. The report consisted of a proposal to establish a Bar council for each state and an All India Bar Council at the national level.

In the meantime, the Law Commission of India was assigned the job of assembling a report on judicial administration reforms. A comprehensive Advocated Bill was presented in the Parliament which brought about the Advocates Act, 1961 to implement the suggestion of the All India Bar Committee and the Law Commission’s proposals related to the legal profession. The Bar Council of India was established under section 4 of the Advocates Act, 1961. M.C. Setalvad and C.K. Daphtary were the first chairman and vice-chairman respectively.

It’s objectives and functions

The primary objection of BCI is to control and administer the working of all immediate subsidiary state-level bar councils other than setting out the measures of professional conduct and etiquette.

The statutory functions of Bar Council of India are stated under Section 7 of the Advocate Act, 1961. Following are the functions of BCI concerning the different bodies:

1. Advocates – BCI lays down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates and BCI also safeguards the rights, privileges, and interests of advocates. 

2. State Bar Council– BCI lays down the procedure to be followed by its disciplinary committee and the disciplinary committee of each State Bar Council. BCI deals with and disposes of any matter arising under this Act, which may be referred to it by a State Bar Council. BCI exercises general supervision and control over State Bar Councils.

3. Recognition- BCI recognizes Universities whose degree in law shall be a qualification for enrolment as an advocate and for that purpose to visit and inspect Universities. BCI also recognizes on a reciprocal basis foreign qualification in law obtained outside India for admission as an advocate under this Act

4. BCI promotes and supports law reforms and also gives suggestions or recommendations.

5. Legal Education– BCI promotes legal education and lays down standards of such education in consultation with the Universities in India imparting such education. BCI conducts seminars and organizes talks on legal topics by eminent jurists and publishes journals and papers of legal interest. BCI also organizes legal aid to the poor in a prescribed manner. 

6. Funds– BCI manages and invests in the funds of the Bar Council. Through this fund BCI gives financial assistance to organize welfare schemes for poor, disabled, or other advocates. This fund is also used in giving legal aid and establishing law libraries. 

BCI can receive grants, donations, and gifts for any of the above-mentioned purposes.                               

7. Elections– BCI conducts elections regularly to elect its members who shall run the Bar Councils.

Powers

Bar Council of India under its formation has been given powers to regulate many things. Few major powers that BCI hold are divided amongst the committees set up by the Advocates Act. Section 9 of the act sets up the Legal Education Committee and under Section 10 an Executive Committee is set up. Chapter III of the Bar Council of India Rules permits the Council to form more committees in addition to those specified in the Act. The Council also has the power to delegate the duties or functions to these committees.

Legal Education Committee has the power to make recommendations to the council for laying the standard of legal education. This committee also goes for inspection to different universities and reports to BCI.

Disciplinary Committee of BCI hears an application for revision by persons against summary dismissal of their complaints against advocates for professional misconduct, by the state bar councils.

Executive Committee deals with all the questions related to the management of funds, affairs of the staff, allotment of work, audit, accounts, library, and legal publications delegation.

Advocate Welfare Committee is empowered by the Advocates Welfare Act, 2001. This committee looks after the application procedure made by advocates for welfare funds. It also verifies their application and provides the fund.

Legal Aid Committee has the power to offer services to the poor, who cannot afford the services of a lawyer. This committee gives the payment of the court from the charges of preparing a case, drafting to filing the case.

There are other committees which look after the infrastructure of the council’s office across the country. 

All these committees work under the BCI. BCI has the power to the discontinuance of recognition of any University which is based on the recommendation by the Legal Education Committee. BCI also hears every appeal which is proceeded by the Disciplinary Committee. 

BCI has the power to conduct the All India Bar Examination (since 2010) which tests an advocate’s ability to practice law. An advocate must pass this examination to practice law in any court. 

BCI also conducts the National Moot Court Competition which promotes advocacy skills amongst law students through Bar Council of India Trust (public charitable trust). There is an Indian Bar Review which is a quarterly journal of BCI and is among the top legal periodicals in the country.

Legal basis

Advocates Act, 1961 is the act that provides for the constitution of the Bar Councils and an All-India Bar. Section 3 of the act talks about the State Bar Council whereas Section 4 the act talks about the existence of Bar Council of India. Section 4 of the act also talks about the members who will consist of structure BCI. The Attorney- General of India and the Solicitor- General of India will be ex officio. It also talks about that there will be one representative from each State Bar Council. 

Section 5 of the act establishes that BCI will be a corporate body as there will be perpetual succession and a common seal, and can it sue by the name which it is known. 

Section 7 of the act mentions all the functions to be performed by BCI. An amendment was made by Act 60 of 1973 and more functions were inserted in Section 7. Section 7 also gives power to BCI to become a member of international legal bodies, for example, the International Bar Association. The Act in Chapter II states all about the council through different sections. Under Chapter II, the constitution of the different committees, the criteria of disqualification of members, a staff of Bar Council, etc. are mentioned. 

Bar Council of India Rules also laid our rules, which were made by BCI in the exercise of its rulemaking power under the Advocates Act, 1961. Bar Council of India Rules lays down the procedure for the election or the termination of the members of the council. It also specifies the powers of the chairman and vice-chairman of the council. Not only this it also talks about the procedure of the meetings of the council or the meeting of the committees and their reports. Chapter IV of the rules gives the qualification and conditions of service of the secretary, accountant, and other members of the staff.

All these section and Advocates Act lays down the legal basis of BCI. 

Critical analysis

In recent times the horizon of BCI is increasing. BCI has seen the rise in legal education, about fifty years ago the concept of the law school was very different and more of the convention but, through the efforts of BCI and other authorities the image of legal education right now is more practical. 

Legal education is also that field which has to fulfil the requirement of globalization. BCI from time to time is ensuring that the standard of legal education is maintained so that the graduates can fulfil the requirement of globalization. Hence, BCI ensures that even paralegal education is also provided to students. Some more changes were recommended by BCI in legal education after the 184th Report of the Law Commission which urged the need for having subjects related to International Trade Practice, Comparative Law, International Human Rights Law, Space Law, etc. to increase intercontinental endeavour among students.

One of the important things to be noticed is that BCI can only recommend or suggest things but the power of enforcement is exhaustive. 

In the pandemic time also, BCI is working for the benefit of its members. The Bar Council of India has told the Hon’ble Supreme Court that it will be providing some amount for the assistance to the needy lawyers amid the lockdown.

There are certain provisions in the legal field in India today which the Bar Council must investigate, so as to protect the law standard from degradation and to keep up the same standard.

Conclusion

The Bar Council of India has plenty of capacities vested inside itself, whereby practicing those capacities it can rebuild and reframe the entire legal field in the nation. Indeed, it very well may be all the more overwhelmingly visualized, that in present-day times it has scarcely contribute valuably in the improvement of law in India. Bar Council of India is working effectively, although there have been talks related to an increase in the power of BCI to ensure more effective command over the law as a profession. Meetings are held regularly to ensure the smooth functioning of BCI.

Author: Tanishka Jangid from Lloyd Law College , Greater Noida.

Editor: Dhawal Srivastava from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.

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