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A few months after introducing the Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules of 2014, the Bar Council of India has notified an amended version of these Rules.
Describing it as an attempt to weed out non practicing lawyers from the advocate roll, the BCI has notified the Bar Council of India Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules 2015 (Rules).
The new Rules, which are effective from January 13, 2015, mandate all advocates whose names appear on the State Rolls maintained by the state bar councils to get their certificate of practice verified within six months.
On November 30 last year, the BCI held a joint meeting with representatives of all the State Bar Councils. At the meeting, one of the issues raised was the large-scale migration of enrolled lawyers to other professions, without intimating the respective councils.
The Statement of objects and reasons states that,
“This trend has reached alarming proportions and is endangering the legal profession as a whole. It has also made a dent in its sanctity and standards.”
Therefore, these Rules seek to stop such advocates from tarnishing the image of the profession.
Although the new Rules are more or less similar to the 2014 Rules, there are certain changes. Perhaps the most significant one is the removal of the clause requiring a minimium of 5 years work experience in the lower courts before being allowed to practice in the Supreme Court. In fact, this particular provision had been challenged in the Madras High Court.
The Madras High Court petition may very well have been the catalyst for removing this controversial clause.
Speaking to Bar & Bench, BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said the 5-year clause was actually a suggestion made by judges of the Supreme Court judges.
As for the verification process, two categories of lawyers have been exempted altogether from undergoing the process – Senior Advocates and Supreme Court Advocates on Record.
All other lawyers will have to get their Certificate of Practice verified once every five years, a process that will involve a payment of a hundred rupees and a visit to the concerned state bar council.
In fact, the 2014 Rules BCI had stipulated a fee of Rs. 500 out of which Rs. 400 was to go for lawyers welfare fund. However, after this faced severe protests, the new Rules has made the payment of Rs. 400 as optional.
Those lawyers who fail to verify their CoP’s will be placed under a defaulting list and given another chance to get their certificates verified. If this is also not done, then their names will be added to the list of “non-practicing advocates”. Once on this list, the lawyers will not be entitled to claim benefits under the welfare schemes of the BCI, nor would they be entitled to appear before any court and to cast their votes in elections to Bar Associations.