Chandigarh, December 24: The Punjab and Haryana high court has quashed Bar Council of India’s (BCI) decision of not allowing the opening of new law colleges for three years.

The high court bench of justice Rekha Mittal said the decision violated the fundamental right of a citizen to practice any profession, or to carry out any occupation, trade or business, under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution, the Hindustan Times reported.

The BCI, a statutory body that regulates legal practice in the country and grants approval for opening law colleges, had taken the decision in August 2019, citing non-adherence of guidelines/circulars by institutions imparting legal education by already approved institutes.

The decision was challenged by the Chandigarh Educational Society, which wanted to open a law college at Jhanjheri in Mohali and had in December 2019 applied for permission for the academic session 2021-22. In May, it moved the high court claiming that all procedural requirements were fulfilled but the BCI was sitting over its application. It was also argued that under the Advocates Act, 1961, the BCI had no power to ban the establishment of new institutes for imparting legal education.

The court found that the BCI had failed to point out any provision in favour of its decision. It also failed to point out how many institutes have been shut down till date for non-adherence to the prescribed standard of legal education or circulars issued by the council.

“The BCI cannot justify its failure to ensure maintenance of standards of legal education by imposing a complete ban on setting up new law colleges,” the court said, adding the BCI can issue guidelines and circulars and press for their compliance either at the stage of grant of approval to a new college or for adherence to existing ones.

The council was directed to process the Chandigarh Educational Society’s application within three months.

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