Criticizing Bar Council of India for being a mute spectator to selling of law degrees by 'letter pad' colleges, the Madras High Court today directed Bar Councils to ensure they do not enrol applicants if they were found to have obtained law degrees while in service.
A division bench, comprising Justices V Ramasubramanian and N Kirubakaran, gave the direction on a petition by one P Ramu, a Junior Engineer in Agricultural Engineering Department, Thanjavur, from March 17 1966 to October 31 2001, challenging the July 24, 2006 enrolment rules of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu.
It directed Bar Councils to verify if candidates applying for enrolment after crossing 40 years of age had rightly got law degrees and not enroll them if found otherwise.
It also directed the Councils to verify the ration card, pan card and Aadhar Card of candidates to ascertain their address, social status and income at the time of enrolment.
The Councils should also get affidavits from candidates who crossed 40 years of age at the time of enrolment, stating that they have not obtained law degree while in service.
The petitioner had obtained a law degree to state as if he had undergone the course from 1998-2001, as a regular student in Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia College of Law, Bangalore University.
Ramu said he joined the Department in 1966 and superannuated in the year 2001. After retirement, he applied for enrolment with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu (BCTN) he said and claimed he had clearly stated his employment details to it.
The BCTN sought to know how he had taken the course, especially when he was employed as a Junior Engineer in Thanjavur.
Ramu said he filed an affidavit stating that he applied for leave and availed loss of pay to attend regular college during 1999 and 2001. But he did not furnish details.
The BCTN then directed him on October 17, 2002 to produce all relevant documents before the Enrolment Committee as proof.
Since he still did not do so, the Council on May 13, 2003 rejected his application and referred the case to the Bar Council of India which directed the BCTN on June 14, 2003 to give Ramu a chance to produce the records from the University to back his claims. If he did so and its genuineness was accepted by the Enrolment Committee, then they could take appropriate action.
On June 21, 2004, the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu directed Ramu to produce the documents but he did not do so.
Ramu then moved the High Court challenging the Bar Council rules, which was dismissed by the bench.
The bench observed that it was shameful for the Bar Council to remain a mute spectator to sale of law degrees by 'Letter Pad' colleges and called for urgent remedial steps to contain the menace. "Otherwise, criminal elements and undesirous people will hijack the very system. In fact, criminalization of the Bar has already started," it said.
This case was only the tip of the iceberg, showing how full-time salaried employees/staff were working and simultaneously doing law degrees elsewhere, it said.