Bar Council of India directs for Inclusion of New Laws in Legal Education, Issues Strict Guidelines Against Online and Distance Learning

Published on: May 26, 2024 14:03 IST

Bar Council of India (BCI) has issued a circular mandating the inclusion of three new enactments into the curricula of legal education institutions starting from the academic year 2024-2025. This directive was communicated in a circular dated May 20, 2024, signed by BCI Secretary Srimanto Sen.

The circular, addressed to university vice-chancellors, registrars, principals, deans, and directors of legal institutions, outlines the inclusion of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam of 2023 in the curriculum. This initiative aligns with the evolving legal landscape and the directives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aiming to prepare graduates for contemporary legal challenges.

Transformative Vision for Legal Education

The BCI emphasized a “transformative vision” for legal education, echoing the Prime Minister’s call for adapting to changing times and technologies. The circular highlighted the necessity of understanding the latest trends in crimes, investigation, and evidence. Additionally, it encouraged strengthening international exchange programs for young legal professionals to gain greater exposure.

In line with this vision, legal education institutions are mandated to incorporate subjects such as blockchain, electronic discovery, cyber-security, robotics, artificial intelligence, and bio-ethics into their curricula. The initiative aims to equip graduates with skills to address current legal challenges effectively. Furthermore, the BCI emphasized the importance of imparting a deep understanding of constitutional values, integrating socio-economic and cultural contexts into syllabi, promoting interdisciplinary thinking, and fostering bilingual education using both English and regional languages.

Reiterating Guidelines and Compliance

The circular reiterated the existing guidelines from the Legal Education Rules of 2008, emphasizing computer education and the compulsory inclusion of mediation as a subject, a directive previously communicated in August 2020. It also highlighted guidelines prohibiting the approval of law courses through online or correspondence modes, stressing the necessity of in-person sessions within stipulated timeframes and working hours. The process for equating foreign LLB degrees obtained by Indian students was also addressed.

Non-Recognition of Online and Distance Learning Programs

In a stern warning, the BCI declared that it does not recognize LLB or LLM degrees obtained through online, correspondence, or open and distance learning modes. The circular pointed out that certain institutions offering Master of Arts (MA) programs with law subjects in these modes attempt to mimic the structure and content of Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs. Such MA degrees will not be recognized by the BCI as equivalent to LL.M. degrees and will not qualify individuals to teach in LLB programs.

Supreme Court Orders and UGC Regulations

The circular referenced the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s orders and UGC Regulations, emphasizing that universities must obtain permission from the concerned regulatory body before initiating any distance learning courses. The Distance Education Bureau under UGC explicitly prohibits courses in law, among other fields, from being offered online without approval from respective regulatory bodies.

Enforcement and Penalties

The BCI warned that any centers of legal education found offering unapproved courses in violation of these guidelines would face stringent action. The public is advised to be aware that law courses offered through correspondence, open, and distance learning modes are not recognized by the BCI.

The BCI’s firm stance aims to maintain the quality and integrity of legal education in India, ensuring that legal professionals are well-prepared to meet contemporary challenges in the legal domain.

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