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This PIL could completely change the Bar Council of India’s powers over legal education

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The ongoing tussle over the de-recognition of Maharashtra’s law colleges has reached the Bombay High Court. And how. A petition filed by law students of SNDT University in Mumbai not only questions the power of the Bar Council of India to approve law colleges, but also challenges BCI’s role in legal education itself.

The PIL, filed through advocate IA Saiyed, was mentioned before the bench headed by Kanade J. earlier this week. Yesterday, the matter was heard by the First Court, with Chief Justice Manjula Chellur seeking the BCI’s response.

The matter will now be heard on Wednesday, one day after the BCI’s Legal Education Committee is to decide on the fate of de-recognised colleges such as the Government Law College in Mumbai.

But the petition is not just limited to the state’s law colleges and the BCI; the petitioners have asked for much more.

The final two prayers in the petition reads,

“iii) Direct BCI not to collect any fees including inspection fees from the Law colleges and if at all to be recovered then the appropriate Government be directed to pay the same, and;

iv) BCI be directed not to have any direct/indirect control on the functioning of Law colleges, and prevent them from sending resolutions to the Law colleges every now and then.”

These “inspection fees” or rather the default in paying them, was one of the reasons the BCI had chosen to de-recognise GLC-Mumbai. In essence, the petitioners are contending that although the BCI can law down the standards of legal education, it has absolutely no power to grant approval. Nor does the BCI have the power to take action if these standards are not met.

The potential repercussions of this petition include a substantial blow to the BCI, both financially and otherwise. And leading the charge is IA Saiyed the lawyer representing the SNDT students.

IA Saiyed
IA Saiyed

Saiyed happens to teach at SNDT’s law course, which is how the students managed to get in touch with him in the first place. The petition, he says, was prompted by the unending controversies over law admissions.

“Our students are proactive, they want to change things.”

Drafted and filed in less than three days, the petition will now be officially served on the BCI in Delhi. The BCI’s reply, should it choose to file one, should make for an interesting read.

Either ways, the matter is unlikely to end in the Bombay High Court; a visit to Bhagwan Das road seems inevitable.

And Saiyed, no stranger to the profession, is well aware of this. But he is determined to fight; the BCI cannot be allowed to continue to control legal education in this manner, he argues.

Graduating in law from New Law College more than four decades ago, Saiyed says that it is the students who ultimately have to pay the price for the entire de-recognition saga. His passion for education, and his students, is evident. But the reasons behind this  passion may just be a tad selfish.

“If I can answer all the questions that my students ask, then answering questions in court is not that difficult.” (Smiles)

Jokes aside, Saiyed’s PIL comes at a time when there are already multiple litigations across different courts.

The Supreme Court has issued notice in a writ challenging the Bombay High Court’s decision in the law CET matter; this is expected to come up next week as well. In the Madras High Court, a petition has been filed challenging the BCI’s age limit for law courses reports The Hindu. This age limit was recently made applicable to Maharashtra’s law colleges