Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra’s statement that 30 per cent of lawyers in India are fake is shocking. He rubbed it in by saying that 20 per cent of the lawyers currently practising in the courts held fraudulent degrees, attributing to their presence the frequent lawyers’ strikes on flimsy grounds. As Mishra is a two-time chairman, he must have had sufficient facts to support his statement. He has provided substance to what was known for some time: a drastic fall in the standards of the legal profession which, at one time, had attracted the best of talents. There have indeed been some efforts to weed out non-serious lawyers; making the degree course in law a full-time one was one of these. Obviously, these efforts have come a cropper. One of the main reasons for the astonishing number of fake lawyers is the mushrooming of law colleges where certificates of attendance are provided to those who pay for it.
Party politics of a base kind might have been behind the jailing of a former law minister of Delhi, but it was a fact that he did not even know where exactly the institution he studied was situated. His remaining in jail for a fairly long period before he could obtain bail might also have been part of politics, especially since dubious degree-holders in other parties were allowed to carry on. However, obtaining a fake degree is a non-bailable offence and his opponents could claim that the former minister only received his just deserts. It is clear that the place for 30 per cent of India’s lawyers is not in our courts but in our jails. There must be a mechanism to ensure that those who abuse the majesty of law will not escape the clutches of law.
Mishra’s claim that the BCI has initiated a process to verify certificates of all the lawyers on its rolls is welcome. The council is empowered to take action against errant lawyers but it must find the wherewithal to do this with a firm hand. Tens of thousands of lawyers practising in courts across the country are subject to the rule that they can practise only if they are officially enrolled. The immediate need is to streamline the system of enrolment so that existing loopholes are plugged. It should be made mandatory for all lawyers to have their degree certificates verified by the council. The BCI can even institutionalise the system by appointing a retired judge with a support staff to ascertain if its members are qualified to practise their profession.