The primary body for regulating legal profession and legal education, to some extent, is the bar council of a particular country. The trend of establishing bar councils is popular within countries following the common law system. It is a professional body, usually established through a statute. In India, the Bar Council of India is the statutory body that regulates the lawyers and their practice. Section 4 of the Advocates Act, 1961, states the establishment of the Bar Council, as well as its composition and Section 7 states the functions of the Bar Council of India.
Establishment of Bar Council of India
The need for an all-India Bar Council was felt right after the Constitution came into enforcement, and in the annual meeting of the Inter-University Board at Madras, a resolution was passed stating that an all-India bar be established, and that uniformity should be present across the universities of the country while conducting law examinations.
The formation of the Bar Council of India was a result of a report submitted by the ‘All India Bar Committee’, which was headed by S. R. Das. The report proposed the establishment of a bar council for every state as well as a central bar council. The Law Commission was then asked to submit a report on the judicial reforms needed in order to introduce bar councils in the country at both levels, as well as reform the system of justice and equity in the country. Later, in 1961, the Advocates Act was introduced which implemented the reforms suggested by the All India Bar Committee as well as the Law Commission, and the Bar Council of India as well as those of the states came into existence.
Composition of Bar Council of India
Section 4 of the Advocates Act talks about the composition of the Bar Council. The Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of India are the ex-officio members of the Bar Council. Also, one member is to be elected from each of the state Bar Councils. The Bar Council elects its own Chairman as well as Vice Chairman among its members, who stay in office for a period of two years. The Chairman is the chief executive and director of the Council, and is assisted by the various committees of the Bar Council.
Eligibility criteria for a person to be a member of the Bar is that he/she needs to have a degree in law from a recognized institution and needs to be enrolled as an advocate in the state Bar Councils. As per the Advocates Act, 1961, it is up to the state Bar Councils to formulate their own rules for the enrolment of advocates. The examination conducted by the Bar Council of India, the All India Bar Examination, allows the advocates enrolled to practice in any High Court or lower court within the territory of India, awarding him/her with a Certificate of Enrolment. To practise in the Supreme Court, the advocates need to qualify for the Supreme Court Advocate on Record Examination, which is conducted by the Supreme Court itself.
Legality of Bar Council of India
Section 3 of the Advocates Act, 1961, talks about state Bar councils, whereas Section 4 talks about the All India Bar Council. Section 5 of the Act establishes that the Bar Council is a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, and it can sue or be sued through its own name. Section 7 gives power to the Council to become a member of foreign legal bodies, such as the International Bar Association. The Bar Council of India rules lay down the procedures and processes of elections of the members, meetings of the committees, powers of the various members etc.
Functions of Bar Council of India
Section 7 of the Advocates Act mentions the functions of the Bar Council of India. Further amendment to the Act in 1973 added more functions to the list.
- The Bar Council lays down the standards of professional conduct and the etiquette required to be followed by the advocates
- It also lays down the procedure which is to be followed by the various committees of the Bar Council
- The advocates are also accorded certain rights, privileges and interests, which need to be safeguarded by the Bar Council
- Reforms in the existing law of the country are also worked upon by the Council
- Whenever a state Bar Council refers a matter to the All India Bar Council, it has to look into the details of the same
- Legal education and any such standards to be achieved in the field of legal education are regulated by the Council
- The universities the law degrees of which are to be recognized are also selected by the Bar Council
- Legal knowledge is also to be promoted by the Council, in ways of seminars on legal topics by jurists and publishing of journals and papers on legal issues
- Right to legal aid, which is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, is also to be provided by the Bar Council, to the poor
- Foreign qualifications for law are also to be recognized and regulated by the Council, in case an advocate obtains education outside the country
- The funds of the Council are structured and managed by the Council itself
- The various members who shall run the state Bar Councils are also elected by the All India Bar Council
Apart from granting legal aid to the poor, the Bar Council can also organize welfare schemes, for the poor, differently abled or certain advocates. The Council can also establish libraries for the sole purpose of propagating legal education. For these purposes, the Bar Council can receive grants, gifts or donations.
Different Committees of the Bar Council of India
The Bar Council has certain committees that assist the working of the Council. Their members are elected from within the Council.
The Executive Committee manages the allocation and management of funds, audit and accounts, staff and council’s affairs, allotment and delegation of work, managing libraries and legal publications.
Legal Education Committee
The Legal Education Committee manages legal education and makes recommendations to the Council regarding the standards of legal education, visits and inspects universities, recommends the requirements for foreign advocates to practice in India, recognises or invalidates law degrees from certain colleges and universities.
The Disciplinary Committee looks into discipline matters and complaints made by people against advocates, especially for professional misconduct, and also indulges into disciplinary matters of the state bar councils.
Advocate Welfare Association
The Advocate Welfare Association considers applications that are put forward by advocates regarding welfare schemes and measures, and verifies them. The Association is guarded by the Advocates Welfare Fund Act of 2001.
Legal Aid Committee
The Legal Aid Committee provides legal aid to those in need.
The Building Committee controls the establishment of offices of the Council.
The Rules Committee reviews the rules and procedure that the Council is subjected to.
FAQs on Functions of Bar Council of India
The Bar Council is a statutory body in the sense that it has been established through a statute, that is the Advocates Act, 1961. It renders the council a body corporate, which can sue as well as be sued in its own name, and which has perpetual succession and common seal. The Advocates Act further provides for the composition, powers and functions of the Council.
While the Bar Council has many functions, it plays a major role in regulating the advocates of the country, i.e. who shall be enrolled as an advocate, their professional conduct, the all India Bar examination etc. Most of the work of the Bar Council revolves around practising advocates only.
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