Not Challenged Powers, Jurisdiction of BCI in Regulating Legal Education & Profession: Singhvi

Senior advocate A M Singhvi said on Friday he has not questioned the powers and jurisdiction of the Bar Council of India (BCI) in regulating legal education and profession and deplored his recent speech was taken “completely out of context” which was “rather unfortunate”.

He said observations purportedly attributed to him, including the “fundamentally erroneous and non-existent notion” that he had suggested “BCI should be out of regulation of legal education and/or of the legal profession” in the media are patently false and inaccurate.

The senior lawyer issued a statement in response to the comments made by the BCI about his recent speech at the American Bar Association (ABA) India Conference 2023 held in New Delhi.

“It is rather unfortunate that my speech was taken completely out of context and has been misquoted in the media and on that basis the BCI has made certain comments. I wish somebody had duly heard my speech and seen its YouTube link (attached at the end of this statement) before making these unjustified comments,” Singhvi said.

He said his speech was on legal education and not at all on any aspect of the legal profession, both of which are regulated by the BCI.

“At no point of time in my speech, had I questioned or challenged the powers and jurisdiction of the BCI in relation to regulating legal education and legal profession,” he said.

According to some media reports, the BCI has assailed Singhvi’s reported statement and termed it baseless.

In his statement, Singhvi said, in the 20-minute speech that he delivered as a special address, he had focused on the broader challenges of legal education confronting India and how it can be addressed effectively.

He said he had devoted much of the speech on the specific reform initiatives that can be undertaken towards addressing the challenges of legal education.

“Whatever I have said in this regard resonates with the speeches and observations by the Chairman of the BCI and the Union Law Minister on many past occasions, including a recent statement in which an effort is being made by the BCI to revisit the functioning of nearly 500 law schools with a view to addressing mediocrity in legal education and promoting excellence in our law schools,” he said.

“As a senior member of the Bar, I fully recognise and appreciate the statutory powers, duties, responsibilities and obligations of the Bar Council of India to regulate legal education and legal profession. I had no intention, nor was it my view to question these well-established powers of the BCI as a statutory regulator nor did I factually do so,” Singhvi said.

Singhvi said while the entire speech of 20 minutes had examined the role of institutional reforms in legal education, “towards the end of my speech, for merely 90 seconds, I made a reference to the reforms that can be initiated by the BCI itself in relation to the regulation of legal education.”

He said he had made a suggestion that an empowered, broad-based, separate committee of academicians, chief justices, eminent lawyers should be set up or an independent and autonomous national council for legal education and research, generally created by or under the auspices of the BCI for reimagining legal education.

“The most important part of this suggestion that seems to have been missed completely is that it clearly and unequivocally makes the point of this reform under the ambit of the BCI,” Singhvi said.

The senior advocate said he is indeed cognisant of the fact that BCI will have to lead the reforms relating to legal education and it is only appropriate that they are made responsible for the reforms.

“My concern in this speech and more generally in relation to legal education is as to how we can contribute to the development of a sound legal education ecosystem in India that will ultimately strengthen the quality of the Bar and the Bench – a purpose and vision that is very much in line with the vision of the Bar Council of India itself,” he said.

“Whatever observations that have been purportedly attributed to me (including the fundamentally erroneous and non-existent notion that I suggested that “BCI should be out of regulation of legal education and/or of the legal profession”) in the media are patently false and inaccurate,” Singhvi said.

On March 3, Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud had said truth has become a “victim” in the age of false news and with the spread of social media, something which is said as a seed germinates into virtually a whole theory that can never be tested on the anvil of rationale science.

Justice Chandrachud was speaking at the American Bar Association India Conference 2023 here on the theme ‘Law in the age of Glocalisation: Convergence of India and the West’.

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