Govt proposes to form new legal regulatory body

But Bar Council of India is opposed to move as it feels its powers will be diluted


Deevakar Anand | November 18, 2010

In order to regulate legal practitioners and enable easy and affordable access to justice, the union government has proposed to set up a Legal Services Board on the lines of the Legal Services Board in U.K.

The law ministry has prepared a draft for Legal Practitioners (Regulations and Maintenance of Standards in Professions, Protecting the interest of Clients and Promoting the Rule of Law) Bill, 2010 inviting comments from the public,legal fraternity and educationists.

The Bill envisages appointment of the chairman of the board as also a member–secretary, and other members in consultation with the chief justice of India and the president of the Bar Council of India. Five out of these other members shall be the chairman of the state bar councils, representing the northern, southern, western, eastern and north eastern regions of the country. A chief ombudsman and ombudsmen for the states dealing with complaints against legal professionals at the state level are also proposed to be appointed.

While the chief ombudsman will be a former high court judge, the state-level ombudsmen will be former district judges. The draft bill reads that the board will uphold the principles under which the legal professional activities should be transparent, accountable, proportionate,consistent. A consumer panel that the board shall establish will represent the interests of consumers and the clients of the legal professionals.

The need for having such a board is intriguing as the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the respective bar councils of the state are already vested with powers to regulate the legal practice in the country. Understandably, the draft bill has dealt with the relationship between the legal services board – in the eventuality of it coming into existence - and the bar councils. According to it, while the board shall have full authority to deal with the regulatory objectives in this Act, the bar councils shall continue to exercise the functions assigned to them by Advocates Act, 1961. The draft also lays out that BCI, while discharging its regulatory functions, shall also comply with the requirements of the regulatory objectives in the new act. Also, all legal professionals will have to follow the directions of the Legal Services Board as the guiding principles to their functioning and performance.

The BCI, however, does not buy the idea of having a new regulatory body as it believes it’s intended to undermine the BCI’s authority. BCI vice–chairman R Dhanapal Raj told Governance Now that the government was acting arbitrarily on the issue without even consulting the BCI.

“While the Advocates Act, 1961 already lays out provisions for regulating the legal practitioners, there is no need to have a new regulator such as the Legal Services Board” he said. Raj also informed that the BCI already passed a resolution last week against this move of the government. According to Gopal Narain Mishra, a member of the BCI and the state bar council of Uttar Pradesh, the bar councils of the states are also opposed to the new act.




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