State Plans To Implement Bar Council Norms

Candidates above 30 years of age may not be able to pursue law in state colleges from the next academic year. The state government's legal education advisory committee, which met on Friday for the first time, has decided to follow the norms laid down by the Bar Council of India (BCI) for next year's admissions. Among other norms is one restricting the age limit of aspiring candidates to 30 years in the three-year law programme and to 20 years in the five-year integrated programme. Though the contentious issue was orally passed, the minutes of the meeting will be finalised at a later date.

The government faced several teething problems in the first year of a centralised admission process for law. Right from dealing with court cases challenging the holding of a common entrance test to getting BCI's approval for affiliated colleges, the delay took almost half a year. The admission process finally concluded on November 12, almost at the end of the first semester. On the direction of the Bombay High Court, the Bar Council was involved in the admission process at a later stage.

“Since the BCI prescribes an age limit for candidates to pursue law, the state will have to impose the same. It was unanimously decided in the meeting to follow the age criteria for admissions in 2017. If there is any development before next year's admission process allowing relaxation in this criterion, we will implement it, “said the official, adding the minutes of the meeting are yet to be finalized. One member mentioned a court directive allowing relaxation of the age restriction, which will be taken into account while finalising the minutes, said the official. The committee has also agreed to change the minimum qualifying marks according to the BCI norms and fulfil the faculty and infrastructure requirements.

Vice-chairman of the BCI, Satish Deshmukh, said the age criterion is under review in a Supreme Court matter. “Bar Council is also of the opinion that there should be no restriction on acquiring legal education beyond 30 years, but practising should not be permitted. However, until the rule is amended, the old one will continue to be applicable to all BCI-approved colleges, “said Deshmukh.

However, a majority of lawyers, students and professors think the age restriction on studying or practising law is unfair when the course is in demand. The limit was first introduced by BCI in 2008, as part of clause 28 in the Rules on Standards of Legal Education. It was an attempt to ensure that only students who are `serious' and `focussed' should be able to practice law. Since then, there have been several conflicting judgements in the matter.