BCI for age limit in law admissions

Publication: Times Of India Hyderabad; Date:2009 Feb 24; Section:Times Nation; Page Number: 8 BCI for age limit in law admissions Anyone Above The Age Of 20 Not Eligible For Integrated 5-Year LLB Course: Bar Council Swati Deshpande | TNN Mumbai: Students may have to check their age before joining a law college from this year. The Bar Counil of India (BCI) is imposing an age limit on fresh law admissions. No one above the age of 20 can join the integrated five-year LLB course for which you enrol after passing class XII; and you cannot be more than 30 if you want to join the three-year LLB degree course (for which you need to have a bachelor’s degree in any other discipline). The BCI is the apex organisation that determines the standards and rules governing legal education in India and their advice is binding on all law-teaching institutions. Law college principals, however, are aghast and are calling for a proper debate before the “controversial new rule” is introduced. G J Advani Law College principal Vijay Ghormade said, “Any change has to be gradual, well thought of and consensual. Colleges, principals, lawyers, teachers and students ought to be involved in the decision-making process.” But BCI vice-chairperson J R Beniwal justified the new rule that would be applicable countrywide. He told TOI from Rajasthan, “We want to improve the standard of legal education. We don’t want to open the gates for a 70-year-old. Law education must be on par with medical and engineering education.” There are about 300 universities across India, a dozen national law schools in various states (Maharashtra, however, doesn’t have one) and over 300 law colleges of which 80 are in Maharashtra alone. Thousands of students enrol for law courses every year. The BCI, however, has made a concession for SC/ST and OBC students who can join a fiveyear course (after class XII) at 22 and a threeyear post-graduation course at even 35. The BCI says it is introducing the age bar to improve the quality of lawyers but law colleges and advocates say the move smacks of “discrimination’’. It violates the constitutional right to equality and to practise a profession of one’s choice. Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani said: “It is unnecessary and discriminatory. How can you stop someone from studying at any age and changing his profession?’’ Beniwal, however, said: “This is a good idea. Lots of senior people, including a former Supreme Court judge, have applied their mind.’’ The age limit already exists as an eligibility condition in the National Law Schools. Principals of colleges run under universities, however, say the National Law Schools admit only 60-80 students every year whereas the other law colleges admit up to 320 students and hence accommodate students of all ages. Mumbai University board of studies chairperson wrote to the BCI secretary two days ago, saying the age limit might affect student strength and even force some colleges to shut down. “Even aided law colleges may be forced to hike fees to Rs 30,000 from the existing Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000 if student strength falls,’’ the letter warned.

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