The Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu Bar Council and the Advocate General to cancel the membership of 713 lawyers, who had enrolled as advocates after getting law degrees based on MA degrees of open universities.

The order came after AG Vijay Narayan said that persons who have not even passed 6th or 7th and 10th standards are able to procure open university MA degrees, which Justice N Kirubakaran termed as very shocking.

The judge also ordered lodging of a police complaint against 42 people who had enrolled in the state bar council without even furnishing proper documents. He expressed shock over people with criminal backgrounds and without formal education getting enrolled as advocates using irregular and illegal means such as purchasing law degrees.

The judge gave the order after hearing submissions by the advocate general, who is the ex-officio chairman of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council, and senior counsels for the Bar Council of India, the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and others on the matter.

The submissions were made during the resumed hearing of a petition by 17 MBSS students of a private medical college seeking transfer to a state-run institution due to a dispute between trustees of their college in which advocates were engaged to resolve the problem.

On October 12, the judge had taken a stern view of the advocates holding ‘Kangaroo courts’ to settle disputes and had directed that criminal action be taken against them.

He had also directed the Centre to take appropriate steps to streamline the legal profession and told the Bar Council to go in for tighter norms for both admission to law colleges and for approval to new ones.

When the matter came up today, the advocate general submitted that 42 people were enrolled during 2009–2016 as lawyers without furnishing any basic documents and without even providing their addresses.

Though notices were issued to them online, only two replied and one of the person was even found to have enrolled twice.

“Problems wherever they go”

“Persons who have not even passed 6th or 7th and 10th standards are able to procure open university MA degrees...Subsequently, the said degrees have been used to get admissions into law colleges and obtain law degrees. Based on the same, they started enrolling (in the bar),” the AG said.

“It is evident from the submissions that the very process of enrolment is a faulty one. Moreover, the process of acquiring a law degree is very easy by irregular and illegal means viz., purchasing degrees for money from letter pad colleges from other states,” the judge said.

“It is very shocking to note that without even any formal education, people with criminal backgrounds are able to get law degree in absentia and able to get enrolled as advocates. Due to these kinds of unruly elements, problems are created in police stations, in courts and wherever they go,” the judge observed.

In fact, they were engaged like rowdy elements to take over the possession of properties and indulge in other property disputes, causing damage to the image of the legal profession, he said.

The judge then referred to an order of a division bench of the court which had prohibited enrolment of a degree holder from an open university.

“Without understanding or incapable of understanding the aforesaid position of law, it is surprising to note that the elected bar council members had allowed enrolling 713 persons with open university MA degree from the year 2009 to 2016,” he said and directed issuance of notice to all these people by the state bar council.

The judge also said for ensuring fair elections to the bar councils, verification, as ordered by the Supreme Court, based on Bar Council of India Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015 had to be completed to weed out the unruly elements and fake lawyers, he added.

“This order is passed only to ensure that the order of the honourable Supreme Court is implemented by verifying the records of the lawyers and to see that the election with genuine and regular advocates as electorates is conducted,” he added.