The Competition Commission of India, on Thursday (January 28, 2021) dismissed a complaint against BCI. The complaint alleged that the Bar Council of India was "abusing its dominant position" by imposing a maximum age limit to enter into the legal education.
The complaint was filed by a 52-year-old executive engineer, Mr. Thupili Raveendra Babu, working in the Central Public Works Department. He wished to pursue legal education post his retirement. The complainant also stated that he appeared for LLB (3 year) entrance examination in the State of Andhra Pradesh (APLAWCET) on 01.10.2020 and secured first rank. Clause 28 of the Rules of Legal Education, 2008 bars candidates belonging to the General Category over the age of 30years from pursuing legal education. The complainant alleged that the Bar Council, which enjoys a dominant position in controlling the legal education and practice in India is “misusing its dominant position” in contravention of Section 4 of the Competition Ac, 2002 as it is creating “indirect barriers” to the new entrants in the legal service profession.
He also alleged that the bar council conspired to reduce the competition to its electors.
“The Informant has prayed before the Commission to declare the impugned Clause 28 as illegal and void ab initio and impose maximum penalty on the BCI for the violation of Section 4 of the Act and indulging in colourable exercise of power,” the order stated.
The commission held that in order to appreciate the facts in the matter, it is necessary for the status of the BCI as an enterprise to come within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Competition Act, 2002. Thus, BCI should be a department of the Government, engaged in any activity relating to provision of any kind of services. The Commission noted that the BCI, as per the provisions of the Advocates Act 1961, is empowered to carry out functions which are regulatory in nature The case of Dilip Modwil and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA)
was then referred to where the Commission had observed that any entity can qualify within the definition of the term ‘enterprise’ if it is engaged in any activity which is relatable to the economic and commercial activities and regulatory functions are not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Commission. The commission thus held that there exists no prima facie case under Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002 against the Bar Council of India and closed the complaint, further stating that-
“When the BCI appears to be discharging its regulatory functions it cannot be said to be an ‘enterprise’ within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act and consequently, the allegations made in relation to discharge of such functions which appears to be non-economic in nature, may not merit an examination within the provisions of Section 4 of the Act”
The Commission was headed by Mr. Ashok Kumar Gupta. [READ ORDER]