Ensure police verification before issuance of new licences to practise law: HC to UP govt

Hearing a plea regarding advocates with a criminal background, the Allahabad High Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that police verification is carried out before the issuance of new licences to practise law.

Disposing of the writ petition filed by one Pawan Kumar Dubey, a division bench of Justices Saumitra Dayal Singh and Vinod Diwakar directed the government and the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to issue necessary directions forthwith and ensure that the police verification reports are summoned from the police stations concerned with regard to all the pending and fresh applications for issuance of licence, as is being done for the issuance of passports.

“Such due diligence procedure would ensure that a person who may carry a criminal history and who may conceal that information be prevented from misleading the Bar Council in obtaining a licence. A provisional licence issued pending an adverse police report may be cancelled upon such a report being submitted,” the court said.

The petitioner had moved a complaint against the private-respondent with respect to the concealment of vital information regarding the pendency against him of 14 criminal cases, of which he was convicted in four.

By concealing the information, the respondent obtained a licence to practise law, though according to his counsel, he stands quite distanced from law.

The court, in its order dated December 21, said, “It is alarming to note that a person carrying a criminal history of 14 cases, of which he has already been convicted in four, obtained the licence to practise law. Such a licence, if allowed to arise and continue, may cause harm to the society in general and the legal fraternity in particular. The Advocates Act prohibits the admission of such persons to practice.”

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The court further said, “Whatever be the true facts, at present the complaint appears to be pending with the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh since September 25, 2022. Much time has passed, appropriate action should have been taken thereon, by now.”

It directed the Bar Council to undertake and complete the disciplinary proceedings brought by the petitioner as expeditiously as possible, preferably within three months.

“The Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh ought to have developed a procedure to ensure that all fresh applications received for the grant of licence are subjected to a police-verification procedure in a time-bound manner. All applicants, who may be facing criminal charges and may have been convicted are bound to inform the Bar Council at the stage of making their applications as to the pendency of such cases and existence of any order of conviction,” the court said.

“If such material particulars are not disclosed by an applicant, his application may be rejected at the threshold. Seen in that light, it is surprising that the Bar Council has yet not evolved a procedure to enforce its own law,” it added.

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