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The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that Architects Act, 1972 does not prohibit individuals not registered under the Act to undertake the practice of architecture and other cognate activities.
However, Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi in its judgment said that using the title "Architect" or other similar terms by an individual has real-world consequences and that there exists a presumption that a person using such a title would have a degree of Architecture and be registered under the Act.
The assumption that a person holding the title of architect would be a qualified architect and registered under the Act finds its backing in Section 35 of the Act which deals with "Effect of Registration", the Court pointed out and further highlighted that Section 37 of the same Act prohibits the use of the title in some cases.
Effectively, the Court has now held that while Section 37 does not bar a person not registered under the Act from carrying out activities related to the profession, it prohibits an unregistered person from using the title of architect.
The Court reasoned that architects often render services on contract basis and do not work independently, but towards a larger goal of construction work. Any person who engages the services of a person designating themselves as architects should be satisfied that such a person is qualified and a registered professional.
All the same, the profession also includes under its ambit a wide variety of activities that is carried out by architects "in concert with a range of other actors including draughts-persons, builders, engineers, and designers". The Legislature would not have intended to impose a blanket ban against all the persons involved in these activities from carrying out their work on account of being unregistered under the Act.
"If the legislature were to impose an absolute prohibition against unregistered individuals from practicing architecture‘ there would be considerable confusion as to what activities formed the practice of architecture and what did not. It may have resulted in a host of other legitimate professionals being barred from engaging in the design, supervision and construction of buildings merely because they were not registered under the Architects Act", the Court said.
The purpose of the Act to prohibit the use of the title would have been to prevent unqualified persons from rendering faulty services, the judgment states.
The Court was hearing an appeal filed by the Council of Architects against a decision of the Allahabad High Court, where it was held, among other things, that Section 37 barred unregistered individuals from using the title of architects.
The Court was considering the questions of whether Section 37 of the Act bars unregistered persons from carrying out architecture and related services and if an unregistered person can use the title of architect.
In view of the above observations, the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the appeal partly, in so far as it held that "Section 37 of the Architects Act does not prohibit individuals not registered under the Architects Act from undertaking the practice of architecture and its cognate activities."