Bar Council of India was set up under the Advocates Act, 1961 by the Parliament to regulate the body of lawyers in the country, provide recognition to all the educational universities to sanction law degrees, and to brief lawyers on the etiquettes one needs to imbibe in this profession. The objective is not only to maintain a cordial working environment among the advocates but also to secure the rights, interests, and privileges of all the advocates.
Today whenever any law student completes his/her LLB degree from a recognized university, they already have become a lawyer but what makes them an advocate is the registration with the Bar Council. We witness in movies, students with no registration with the bar are barred to practice law in any court or represent someone as a legal counsel. Doing so is also a punishable offense. To understand this better one can relate to Mike Ross’s story from the famous web series ‘Suits’. One can draft petitions and agreements, but such a profession is known as a Paralegal, not an Advocate.
Enrollment in the bar begins with the examination or screening test which is an open book examination. Students passing through are eligible for enrollment with the bar. Certain benefits are entailing with the registration with the Bar Council:
1. Becoming an Advocate in India
– As discussed above, registration designates you as an advocate in the eyes of law. Passing the exam of the Bar Council is not a strenuous task, noting that one is aware of all the legal news and statutes. To appear for an AIBE exam, firstly register with the SBC (State Bar Council), only those eligible as per the state requirement can appear for the AIBE examination. The guidelines vary state-to-state, section 24 of the Advocates Act defines qualification criteria to be followed:
A. – One must be a citizen of India
– Meet all requirements of the state
– Should be bound by all sorts of limitations imposed
– a foreign national should have a valid license to practice law in a foreign nation
B. Minimum qualification age should be 21 years and not less.
C. A verified law degree from any of the Law Universities recognized by the Bar Council is also a pre-requisite.
D. Abide by any restriction or conditions imposed by the state government.
The process of registration is a tedious one, which initiates with passing the eligibility criteria, receiving a certificate of enrolment from the SBC, and appearing for the AIBE exam. The process for receiving the certificate of enrolment is as follows:
The provisions of the Act to supervise the registration, a committee is formed that scrutinizes all applicant documents and is also responsible for framing rules as per their state’s requirement. As per section 24(1)(f), enrolment fees vary from state to state. Further conditions and documents to be attached with the application include:
– LLB degree
– Judicial stamp papers
– Payment of fees receipt
Those who are eligible are allotted the certificate of enrolment by the SBC.
After receiving the certificate of enrolment, the advocates can appear for the AIBE and file for their registration via the official website: http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/ and complete the process.
The fees as clarified by the Bar Council through a notification in 2017 is as follows:
Rs.2500 for SC/ST
Rs.3500 for the General category
According to the recent notification by the BCI, there exists a provisional time limit of 2 years for an advocate to appear for the AIBE after being enrolled with the SBC. After the expiry of this period, the applicant will have to re-enroll with the SBC. As far now, there is no age limit to appear for an AIBE.
2. Certificate of Practice
– Once you clear the AIBE, you are eligible to get a ‘Certificate of Practice’ that allows the advocate to contest cases in lower courts as well as in the High courts. To appear as an advocate in the Apex court, AOR(Advocates on record) exam is to be passed.
– AIBE is conducted in 40 states all over India more than once a year and applicants can choose to opt for the exam in any of the 11 languages mentioned.
3. Eligible for various government exams
– Registration with the Bar makes way for various other high-paying government job opportunities. For instance, for those applying for the Judiciary examination, registration with the Bar Council of India is mandatory. Akin to this, for appearing as a Law Officer in the IBPS examination registration with the bar is imperative and a part of the eligibility criteria.
– Even for those advocates interested in representing the army, navy, or air force, passing the JAG exam is mandatory. Eligibility for the same also requires registration with the bar.
– As discussed in the beginning, to appear as a legal counsel for companies or huge corporates one is required to be enrolled with the Bar Council to be able to represent them in court.
4. Access to Welfare Schemes
– BCI has certain welfare schemes reserved for those enrolled with them after qualifying for the AIBE. Such schemes include:
a. claiming accidental insurance of up to 5 lakhs
b. Medical benefits include medical insurance covers of up to 5 lakhs in case of critical illness. The amount under this scheme varies with the graveness of the disease.
c. Advocates enrolled are also eligible for a life insurance cover of up to 5 lakh rupees.
d. Benefits can be availed under the Advocates Aid fund scheme in case of death of an advocate
e. And many other monetary benefits are also available under this scheme.
5. Advocate Sticker
– The most fascinating benefit of enrollment with the bar is you are eligible to have a sticker named ‘Advocate’ for your vehicle. For a few law students, this sole benefit could be a driving factor in their careers. To your surprise, these stickers do not carry any legal power with them but as per the recent outrage by the Madras High court, tagging these a mere parking spot entry ticket in the high courts. This came after several incidents were reported by the Police officials fearing to mess with a vehicle with an advocate sticker, and misuse of this privilege is very prominent in India.
Registration with the bar for an advocate is a necessity in order to represent other parties in court, as while contesting any case the advocate is required to attach a legal document called ‘Vakalatnama’ consenting the advocate to represent such party signing this document in the court. Without registration with the Bar Council of India, the advocate can neither represent any other party in the court in any part of the country nor can he be designated as an advocate.