The Bench of the High Court at Delhi, observed on Monday ( February 22,2021) that the Bar Council Of Delhi cannot make its enrolment process totally online because it is seen that it is a policy decision. It stated that the Court cannot give directions to the Council to make it a 100% online process.
Regardless, the Court advised the Bar Council to look into making the procedure online as much as possible for the benefit of hundreds of law graduates , some of them even approaching the Court with pleas.
5000 advocates have been recorded who have enrolled since July of 2020 by the partially online system that has been operating. The single judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh noted, “the Council has taken sufficient steps to provide for online enrolment already.”The form for enrolment as well as its payment was made available online juts that the physical presence of the enrolled was a must for completion of the entire process.
A law graduate from Bihar, Abhishek Anand, filed a petition to the Court regarding the same during the ongoing pandemic. The petitioner was seeking permission for a complete online enrolment since he was unable to travel to Delhi before the All India Bar Examination (AIBE), moving the court for urgent relief. The Council responded saying, the provisional enrolment of the petitioner has already been granted.
The petitioner went on to ask for the requirement of residential proff by the Bar Council to be quashed. The Bar Council of Delhi in their requirements states that a proof of residential or rent agreement in Delhi is mandatory. Anand uses reference to section 25 of the Advocates Act arguing that the provision requires “proposes to practice and not residence thus “mandating proof of it being unreasonable”
Justice Singh refused to accept this argument as tenable and stated that the section had to be interpreted as requiring the applicant to reside in the place where he/she proposes to ordinarily practice, and there was nothing unreasonable about this.She also relied on Section 28 of the Act under which the Council was empowered to regulate conditions for the enrolment of advocates.The Court exclaimed, “If one is going to practice in Delhi, they can't be residing in Bihar – will they be coming to court from Bihar every day?”
The Council was asked by the Court to consider making the process more transparent and convenient moving forward. They were to make definite calls on forms that are available and acceptance of online documents as well as payment of enrolment fee online and possible exemption from physically appearing for completion of the process.
Further, the Council was questioned on the failure to achieve a proper procedure online during the pandemic of COVID-19 when the petition was initially filed last year when Justice Navin Chawla, the single judge bench then, questioned, “When everything is going digital during the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we accept the argument that it might be difficult for BCD to go online?”