The Supreme Court on Friday set aside an Orissa High Court judgment, which directed enrolment of a candidate as an advocate even though he secured a law degree from a college not recognised by the Bar Council of India (BCI).
A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Kumar said: "The rule framed by BCI requiring a candidate for enrolment as an advocate to have completed his law course from a college recognised/approved by BCI cannot be said to be invalid, as was held in the impugned order."
"We, therefore, have no hesitation in holding that the Division Bench was not justified in directing the enrolment of respondent No. 1 as an advocate, despite the fact that he secured his law degree from a college which was not recognised or approved by Bthe CI."
The top court allowed an appeal by the BCI against the Orissa High Court's judgment. "The appeal is accordingly allowed, setting aside the order dated 21.09.2012 passed by the Orissa High Court," said the bench.
The top court relied upon the constitution bench's judgment of February 10, 2023 which held that the Advocate Act of 1961 vested the BCI with the power to prescribe the norms for entitlement to be enrolled as an advocate.
The bench said: "The earlier decision of this court in V. Sudeer (1999) fell for consideration recently before a constitution bench in Bar Council of India vs. Bonnie Foi Law College & Ors. Perusal of the constitution bench judgment reflects that the decision in V. Sudeer (supra) was held to be not good law. The constitution bench held that the BCI's role prior to enrolment cannot be ousted and the ratio decidendi in V.Sudeer (supra), that it was not one of the statutory functions of BCI to frame rules imposing pre-enrolment conditions, was erroneous."
It noted that the candidate had secured his law degree from Vivekananda Law College, Angul, in the year 2009, which was not recognised or approved by BCI. "In fact, by letter dated 05.01.2002, BCI had directed Vivekananda Law College, Angul, not to admit students in law course stating that students so admitted would not be eligible for enrolment as advocates. BCI stated to this effect again in its letter dated 28.02.2011 addressed to the Orissa State Bar Council. As a corollary, the Orissa State Bar Council rejected the application of respondent No. 1 for enrolment as an Advocate, vide letter dated 04.05.2011," noted the bench.