In a big relief to law graduates with limited family income, the Supreme Court Friday said state bar councils cannot charge them an enrolment fee more than Rs 600, as prescribed under the statutes.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha issued notice to all state bar councils and sought to know from them how much they charge the law graduates by way of enrolment fees and how much money is collected in a year from them.
The bench said as per the Advocates Act, the enrolment fee prescribed stands at Rs 600, and no state bar council can charge more than that.
Senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, appearing for the Bar Council of India, said the Rs 600 fee for enrolment was fixed in 1993 and costs have risen manifold since then.
The bench did not concur with Mishra, who also heads the BCI.
“The amount prescribed in statute cannot be subject to inflation,” Mishra said while referring to monetary inflation.
The bench said law is a service oriented profession and exorbitant fees cannot be charged as they may be detrimental to the interest of people coming from poor background.
It asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the court in the matter and posted it for further hearing after summer vacation.
On April 10, the top court had sought the responses of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and others challenging the “exorbitant” fees being charged by state bar bodies for enrolling law graduates as advocates across the country.
“We will issue notice on this. This is a significant issue. The petition says that the exorbitant enrolment fee violates Section 24 of the Advocates Act, 1961,” the bench had said.
The petition claimed the enrolment fee in Odisha stood at Rs 41,100, and in Kerala at Rs 20,050.