Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Supreme Court stays proceedings under Bar Council’s Verification Rules

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the proceedings under new ‘Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015’  which are pending before various High Courts. A Supreme Court bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and R.K. Agrawal, during hearing of the Transfer Petition moved by Bar Council of India passed the following order “Issue notice. Dasti service, in addition, is permitted. In the meantime, no further steps be taken in the matters of  which are pending in the High Courts.”. Since  many High Courts have already stayed the verification procedure introduced by the BCI, by seizing the matter and staying the proceedings pending before the High Courts, the order of the Supreme Court has the effect of ‘status quo’ whereby the stay orders passed by the High Courts would continue, unless an express order modifying the said orders  is passed by the Supreme Court. The High Court of Kerala had on June 11, stayed the operation of the ‘Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015’ framed by the Bar Council of India. Under the said Rules, all advocates except senior counsel and Supreme Court advocates-on-record (AOR), have to apply under the Rules within six months of 13 January 2015, before receiving their certificates of practice, which will be obligatory for practice. Additionally, the Rules stipulate that this certificate will have to be renewed every five years. The Petition before Kerala High Court had claimed that there is a patent discrimination in the issuance of the ‘certificate of practice’ “because it is not required to be obtained by advocates enrolled after the year 2010, but only by advocates enrolled prior to that year.” It had also claimed that banning lawyers from practicing without a valid certificate from BCI amounts to forbidding legal practice to an advocate who was enrolled with the Bar Council of Kerala and other state bar councils. Matters being so, Bombay Bar Association had also issued a direction asking their members to verify themselves Before 15.09.2015 or face suspension. The directive read “The members are requested to comply with the said Rules and to make the necessary applications after getting the same certified from the Bar Association. The last date for compliance is 15th September, 2015.” Karnataka High Court had also stayed the operation of the rules “only in so far as the petitioner is concerned“. Bar Council of India then moved a Transfer Petition in Supreme Court of India. It was called for hearing on 26th August and the Court stayed the proceedings pending before High Courts.

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