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Supreme Court stays HC proceedings in Certificate of Practice Rules challenge
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Supreme Court stays HC proceedings in Certificate of Practice Rules challenge

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court has issued notice in the transfer petition filed by the Bar Council of India (BCI) seeking a transfer of petitions before different High Courts challenging the Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015.

Senior Advocate KK Venugopal along with advocate Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad appeared for BCI.

A Division Bench of Justices PC Ghose and RK Agarwal issued notice in the case and stayed proceedings before the High Courts of Karnataka, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Punjab and Haryana.

Describing it as an attempt to weed out non practicing lawyers from the advocate roll, the BCI had notified the Bar Council of India Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules 2015 (Rules) earlier this year.

The Rules which are effective from January 13 this year, 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 from the date of notification of the Rules. Further, all other lawyers will have to get their Certificate of Practice (CoP) 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.

Two categories of lawyers have been exempted altogether from undergoing the process – Senior Advocates and Supreme Court Advocates on Record. 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.

Various petitions were filed in different High Courts challenging the same. The BCI then moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer of those petitions on the ground that,

“…all the aforesaid writ petitions pending before the various Hon’ble High Courts involves the same/substantially the same question of law pertaining to Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015 is of substantial and general public importance”

And

“…all stated writ petitions pending before different Hon’ble High Courts similar or same issues are to be decided and therefore should be transferred to this Hon’ble Court for disposal at once in the interest of justice.”

The Court issued notice in the case and stayed the proceedings which are pending in various High Courts. Some High Courts had stayed the operation of the Rules but the Supreme Court has not lifted the stay on the Rules.