Even as action is being initiated against fake lawyers in the state, a former Magistrate from Tamil Nadu may have to face the consequences of having served on the Bench for over two decades without possessing a recognised law degree..The Magistrate in question, P Natarajan, had obtained his degree through a correspondence course from Sarada Law College, affiliated to Mysore University. As per a TOI report, he only attended classes in the said college during his final year..He was selected as a Magistrate in 1982 and retired without question in 2003. Following this, he proceeded to get himself enrolled as a lawyer again and was allotted the enrollment number MS1739/2003..Natarajan’s qualifications (or lack thereof) came to light when a complaint was made to the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for failing to initiate action against him. He was therefore served a show cause notice in January 2016..He reportedly informed the Bar Council that he was not aware that the degree was only sufficient for ‘academic purposes’, and not for employment. He was quoted as lamenting that,.“It is not fair and justified to cancel enrollment as advocate of a person who was in judicial service for more than 25 years, including 21 years as judicial magistrate.”.Speaking to Bar & Bench, Chairman of the Bar Council and Advocate General of the state Vijay Narayan said that it may not be possible to take action against Natarajan as far as his completed tenure as a Magistrate is concerned. Such action can only be taken by the High Court..However, given that he started practice as an advocate, his enrollment may stand cancelled, after due process, if required. The Council will make its decision once it hears Natarajan’s reply to the show cause notice..This development comes amidst fresh verification measures being undertaken by the state Bar Council to weed out fake lawyers. The issue recently came to forefront when Justice N Kirubakaran of the Madras High Court took cognisance of it..The state Bar Council had recently issued show cause notices to 742 advocates found to be practicing without complying with the BCI’s Legal Education Rules, 2008. Consequently, the 742 advocates were effectively banned from further practice, pending disposal of the disciplinary proceedings..Protesting the same, a PIL was heard recently by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar of the Madras High Court. After hearing preliminary submissions, the Bench ordered that the suspended advocates cannot be barred from practice without first giving them an opportunity to be heard..With the exception of this stipulation, the Court found no reason to interfere with the impugned Bar Council resolution. It was held that the Bar Council had inherent powers to take action against those found practicing against the prescribed rules. However, the Council was directed not to take any adverse action against the affected advocates without the leave of the Court..The Bar Council is currently in the process of preparing a counter in the case. Given the gravity of the issue, it may request that the First Bench hear it early on an urgent basis..In the course of hearing challenges made to the Bar Council of India Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules 2015, the Supreme Court had kick-started the road to verifying lawyers’ certificates..Update: .Natarajan has reacted strongly to the news report by TOI branding him as a “fake lawyer”..In his letter to the Editor of the publication, Natarajan claims that the report is rife with factual inaccuracies. First of all, he makes it clear that he was not appointed as a Magistrate from the Bar, rather he was recruited by transfer after serving in the Tamil Nadu Judicial Ministerial Services from 1966..Further, he makes it clear that he did his BGL course through the Institute of Correspondent Course and Continuing Education at Mysore University. He only did his LL.B. from Sarada Vilas Law College in his third year..Natarajan also claims to have been misquoted as saying that that he was not aware that the degree was only sufficient for ‘academic purposes’, and not for employment..In his letter, he takes particular exception to the suggestion that he enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council within a month of his retirement as a Magistrate in June 2003..“Even though I applied in the month of July 2003, I was enrolled as lawyer only on 12.11.2003. In the meantime when I enquired the reason for the delay of my enrolment, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry replied me that my law degree was sent for verification of its genuinity. After its fullest satisfaction that my law degree was genuine the Bar Council permitted me to enrol as lawyer on 12.11.2003…”.The letter also claims that the publication branded him as a ‘fake lawyer’ even as the hearing before the Bar Council is pending..“When the matter is pending before the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and no final order has been passed declaring me as a fake lawyer how can you brand me as a “Fake Lawyer”. This is nothing but mischievous, defamatory remarks and misleading your readers about a Judicial Officer.”.Therefore, the former Magistrate has demanded an apology from TOI, failing which he will take legal action against the publication..Read the letter:.27/11/2017, 12:40 PM: This story has been updated after receipt of the Magistrate’s letter.