The Delhi High Court on Friday directed the Bar Council of India (BCI) to constitute special expert teams to carry out surprise visits at law colleges that lack “minimum infrastructure and adequate facilities” and said that if they are found lacking, the BCI must take “immediate steps to close such colleges”.
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh issued the directions in a batch of petitions filed by New Millenium Education Society, a registered society, and Ideal Institute of Management & Technology, a private self-financing college run under the aegis of the society.
“…it is directed that the BCI should constitute special expert teams to conduct surprise visits of the colleges that lack minimum infrastructure and adequate facilities. The inspection reports of the colleges teaching law on its website shall be uploaded within one month of such inspection. If any colleges upon such inspection are found to be lacking minimum infrastructural facilities, then the BCI must take immediate steps to close such colleges,” the court said.
The petitioners had moved court seeking that it direct Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, a state university in Delhi that the institute is affiliated to, to allocate 110 seats to the institute with respect to the BA LLB five-year integrated course, for five academic sessions from 2018 to 2022.
The petitioners had argued that since the 2014-15 session, the Directorate of Higher Education (DHE), Govt. of NCT of Delhi, had issued a no-objection certificate for 110 seats to the institute for the said course and the seat intake by the institute has been 110. This seat intake, however, was reduced to 85 seats by the university for five academic sessions since 2018, including the current academic session 2022-23. Aggrieved by their decision, the petitioners approached the high court, which had granted an interim relief to the petitioners, thereby allowing the petitioners a seat intake of 110.
The institute had contended that it was granted approval of affiliation by the Bar Council of India for 120 seats since academic session 2014-15. For the academic session 2022-23 also, the institute said it had BCI approval for 120 seats. “In particular, no space norms have been prescribed by the BCI. According to the BCI, an academic building of a centre of legal education should have separate classrooms of 60 students for each section, rooms for tutorial work, moot court room, common room for male and female students and adequate library/ reading space,” the petitioners said.
The institute, the petitioners said, was entitled to have its basement area counted in the built-up space to be considered by the respondents for grant of allocation of 110 seats. The institute had the necessary fire safety clearances and they had sent a revised building plan for sanctioning to the concerned authority, however, the same is still under consideration, the petitioners pointed out.
The university and the DHE, however, argued that the institute does not have adequate space to accommodate 110 students, and as per the approved/sanctioned building plan o\ f the premises, as sanctioned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the institute can have the highest intake of 85 seats. They said the institute had failed to show that it had necessary clearances from the statutory bodies, which in the present case were the DDA and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi as per the Unified Building Bye Laws 2016.
The Delhi High Court observed that the institute has failed to show that it has necessary clearance from the statutory bodies. Although the institute had contended that the use of the premises in question – the basement – is for a multi activity hall, conference room and director’s office, as per the submitted sanctioned plan, the basement usage is shown as “car parking”. Unless the building plan is revised, and sanction is granted, the basement cannot be used for any other purpose except car parking, the court noted.
In its judgment, the court also expressed worry over the status of legal education in India, and observed, “There are law colleges where you may not have sufficient faculty, no classrooms, no library, etc. It is unfortunate that this court is being constrained to remark that there are law colleges where you have to just go and pay the fees, the rest is taken care off. It is surprising to state that how can a legal profession or how can we as stakeholders of legal education tolerate this kind of situation. It is a great responsibility cast upon the Bar Council of India to shut down such institutions.”
The court remarked that commercialisation of education was a bane that the sector was suffering from and that one such manifestation of profiteering in the profession is in the form of enrolling additional students in each coming batch, without upgrading the existing infrastructure.
Dismissing the petitions, the court said, “However, it is made clear that this court is conscious of the fact that vide the interim orders passed by this court in the past, the students in addition to the sanctioned capacity were admitted in the previous academic sessions. Therefore, notwithstanding the question of legality of the additional seats as being claimed by the petitioner institute for previous academic sessions, this court, in the best interest of the students already admitted and other stakeholders, does not intend to interfere with their admission.”
The university and the DHE were directed to maintain status quo regarding the already admitted students in previous academic sessions in compliance with the past orders of the court. The court observed that this benefit will not be extended to the academic session 2022-23 and admission will be carried out for only 85 seats as already allotted by the university.