Moratorium on new law colleges held ‘unconstitutional’

Moratorium on new law colleges held ‘unconstitutional’

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in its judgment on 4 December 2020, passed in a writ petition filed on behalf of Chandigarh Education Society, set aside the resolution dated 11 August 2019, passed by the Bar Council of India (BCI), which imposed a moratorium for three years for the grant of approval to new law colleges. The high court further directed the BCI to consider the application made by the writ petitioner for grant of approval for a new law college.

The question before the high court was whether the BCI can legally impose a moratorium regarding opening of new law colleges.

The BCI, through its resolution on 11 August 2019, sought to impose a moratorium on the approvals of new law educational colleges, due to the non-adherence of guidelines/circulars by law colleges already imparting legal education.

The high court held that the resolution was unconstitutional and was also against the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the TMA Pai Foundation’s case, where it was held that the right to establish an educational institute is a fundamental right.

The high court also observed that the BCI had failed to point out any law institute that had been shut down to date for non-adherence to the prescribed standards of legal education or circulars issued by the BCI.

Therefore, it could not justify its failure to ensure maintenance of legal education by imposing a moratorium on setting up new law colleges, in violation of fundamental rights under article 19(1)(g) of the constitution.

The high court, in its parting words through the judgment, suggested that the BCI may consider steps to ensure practical training to law students in its real meaning and sense. In an age of commercialisation of legal education, these directions and suggestions are of significance to institutions that are looking to enter the field of legal education in India, and also to institutions that are already in existence, to evolve with the changing standards of legal education.

The dispute digest is compiled by Numen Law Offices, a multi-disciplinary law firm based in New Delhi & Mumbai. The authors can be contacted at Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.