Should LLM students of DU be prohibited from Legal Practice? Delhi HC issues notice

Should LLM students of DU be prohibited from Legal Practice? Delhi HC issues notice

Meera Emmanuel

The prohibition on legal practice and other gainful employment by students pursuing LLM courses in Delhi University (DU) has been challenged by way of a writ petition in the Delhi High Court.

According to clause 8 of a 2015 Ordinance brought out by the University, the LLM courses offered at DU are meant for those who are not in employment or engaged in any trade, profession, business or occupation.

Whereas the three-year LLM Course is meant for all applicants including those who are not so gainfully employed, the conditions are more stringent for the  two-year LLM Courses.

Student Union President, Piyush Pushkar, who filed the writ petition, has directed his challenge specifically at Clause 8 (ii) of a 2015 Ordinance. This provision lays down that the two-year LLM course is meant only for those who are not in employment or engaged in any trade, profession, business or occupation.

The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the respondents following arguments made by petitioner’s Advocate Anirudh Bakhru, instructed by Advocate Shadman Siddiqui.

The petitioner, Pushkar had successfully cleared the 2017 entrance examinations for the two-year LLM course. After completing other formalities, meritorious candidates, including Pushkar, were asked to sign affidavits prepared in accordance with the aforementioned Ordinance provisions. The affidavit was signed in order to secure the admission.

It is this “blanket prohibition” imposed on students, barring them from engaging in any gainful employment, that has been challenged as contrary to Articles 14, 19 (1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution.

Pushkar has contended that the said prohibition financially cripples some students who look to work for self-sustenance and exposure.

It has also been argued that the restriction so imposed is excessive, fails to secure any social interest or remedy any mischief, has no real or substantial relationship with the intended object and constitutes a restriction for the sake of restriction.

Such a prohibition prevents students from gaining legal exposure and insight into their subject and must therefore be struck down as harmful. The petitioner has pointed out that if the aim was that more time should be diverted to the course of instruction, the same could have been achieved by amending the requirements of the course itself.

The petition also argues that the impugned provision erroneously treats all persons gainfully employed as a single class. Contrary to this assumption, it has been submitted that,

“…there is a clear cut intelligible differentia between two classes of students – one who pursues full time employment/trade/profession/occupation and another who indulges in it for few hours or does it sporadically.

If the prohibition only applied to full time engagements clashing college times, the same might have been reasonable. However, it has been contended, barring part-time and sporadic engagement does not serve to supplement the quality of LLM education and is wholly unreasonable, exploitative and runs counter to the ethos enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, Pushkar also pointed out that that the Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently held that the years spent pursuing LLM would count as practice, provided that the student is enrolled in the bar. As a result of the impugned prohibition, the students at DU are however denied the benefits flowing from this judgement.

Instead, the students at DU are prevented from registering with the Bar Council of India (BCI) or appearing for the All India Bar Examination, if they choose to pursue the LLM course. If the student has already registered with the BCI, they would have to suspend the same in order to study LLM. No similar prohibition has been imposed on other central law universities in Delhi.

On these, among other, grounds, it has been prayed by the petitioner that Clause 8 (ii) of the impugned 2015 Ordinance, as well as notifications issued pursuant to it, be declared unconstitutional and therefore, struck down.

Read copy of Writ Petition below.

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