The Bar Council of India
The Bar Council of India
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Current, ex-BCI members just got five years of jail time (for extortion)

Anuj Agrawal

The Bar Council of India, entrusted with upholding the standards of the legal profession amongst other things, may be a spot of bother. As reported by Legally India, a number of current and former BCI officials have been awarded five years imprisonment by a special CBI court.

The PTI reports that Judge Anju Bajaj Chandna awarded the sentence to ex-BCI Vice Chairman, R Dhanpal Raj, BCI Associate Managing Trustee Rajindra Singh Rana, ex-BCI member Milan Kumar Dey,  and a former associate professor.

Their crime?

Extorting money for granting BCI recognition to the country’s law schools.

There are conflicting reports as to whether there was only one law school in question; the PTI report indicates that it was the School of Law Studies of Bulandshahr. However, this ToI report says that it was the Vaish College of Law, Rohtak. The same ToI report states that seven lakh was handed over to Rana and Raj, along with two mobile handsets.

Some recourse may be taken from the special court’s judgment which says that,”It is clear that the accused have been seeking bribe from old and new colleges as a matter of right.”

The trial itself has been far from smooth.

In December of 2010, when Rana was first arrested by the CBI, the then special judge OP Saini  found himself gheraoed by lawyers after denying bail to Rana. That report also states that Rana took a bribe of one lakh to give a “favourable inspection report” to the Global Law College in Ghaziabad.

This is not the first time that BCI’s role in granting recognition to law colleges has come under the scanner. Last year, the BCI had said that it may have to de-recognise the law courses under Delhi University, with the matter being dragged to the Delhi High Court.

The larger question of course, is the exact role of the BCI when it comes to legal education in the country. Way back in 2012, the HRD Ministry (headed by senior counsel Kapil Sibal) had proposed to move legal education out of the purview of the BCI and under the ambit of National Commission for Higher Education and Research.

Unsurprisingly, this was strongly opposed by the BCI Chairman, MK Mishra who went on to say that the legal fraternity would “gherao Parliament”  if so required.

Although Sibal’s Bill has been put on the back burner since, this judgment may well provide the perfect time to re-examine the role of the bar council in the growth and regulation of Indian legal education.

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