Article - Timesof India 24-02-2009
MUMBAI: The Bar Council of India (BCI) has decided to introduce age-bar in law colleges across India, a move that has not gone down well with thestudent as well the teaching community who are aghast and calling for a proper debate before the ‘‘controversial new rule’’ is enforced.
Once the new rule comes into effect, no one above the age of 20 can join the integrated five-year LLb course for which a student enrols after passing class XII. Also, one can’t be over 30 if one wants to join the three-year LLB degree course (for which a bachelor’s degree is must).
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.
But, in Mumbai’s G J Advani Law College, principal Vijay Ghormade said: ‘‘Any change has to be gradual, well thought out and consensual. Colleges, principals, lawyers, teachers and students ought to be involved in the decision-making process.’’
BCI vice-chairperson J R Beniwal justified the move saying, ‘‘We want to improve the standards 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 and over 300 law colleges. Tens of 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 five-year course (after class XII) at 22 and a three-year PG course at even 35.
The BCI says it is introducing 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’s 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. Lot of senior people, including a former Supreme Court judge, have applied their mind.’’