Grave concern expressed over the invasion of legal profession by criminal elements

Madras High Court: Expressing deep concern
over the invasion by criminal elements in the legal profession by exploiting
the loopholes in S. 24 of Advocates’ Act, 1961, the bench of K. Kirubakaran, J.,
gave the following directions to the Government and Bar Council of India (BCI)-

The BCI must abolish the 3-year
law degree course and retain the 5-year degree course. Furthermore, the BCI is to reduce
the number of seats in law colleges and the number of law colleges as well.  

·    Bar Council of India shall not conduct the next Bar
Council election in 2016, without prescribing minimum qualification like “20
years standing in the Bar or a senior counsel, who does not have any criminal

The Government must make
suitable amendments in S. 24A so as to prevent the entry of persons with
criminal antecedents in the legal profession. The Union of India must also
consider to entrust the functions of the BCI to an expert body, headed by a retired
Supreme Court Judge permanently or till The Advocates’ Act and the Bar Council
Rules are revised and amended, as the BCI has so far failed to recruit
competent persons as its members, thereby making the Council inefficient. 

·       The BCI must direct the State
Bar Councils to compulsorily verify the antecedents of law students from their
native place. Further the BCI must direct all the law colleges to obtain police
verification certificates of the candidates who are to be admitted to the law
degree course.

The petitioners
in the present case through Peter Ramesh Kumar argued that persons with
criminal background exploit the legislative loopholes to obtain degrees thereby
undermining the sanctity of the profession. Assisting the Court, Amicus
Curiae K.K. Ramakrishnan stated that the word ‘person’ as used
in S. 24 of the Advocates Act needs revision keeping in mind the present
degradation of the profession.    

The Court explicitly stated that “competent
advocates with integrity, high moral values, ethics and commitment to the
society are the requirements of the Constitution”. The Court even raised a
question mark over the competency of the BCI in dealing with the menace.
Terming the criminalisation of legal profession as ‘wildfire destroying the
prestige of the profession’, the Court expressed its hope that this noble profession
sustains and comes back stronger to repel and prevent the criminal elements
from taking over, issuing a caution that the “Neethi Devathai” (Goddess of
Justice) might not be considerate enough to forgive the stake holder of justice
delivery system. [S.M. Anantha Murugan v. The Chairman, BCI, Crl.O.P.(MD)No.
14573 of 2014, decided on 06-10-2015] 
Source: Legal news India

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