An open letter to Pakistan Bar Council

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Barrister Arsalan Raja

THE Pakistan Bar Council and the Provincial Bar Councils have utterly failed to take any reasonable steps to improve the Legal Education System in Pakistan. The quality and standards of legal education in Pakistan have undoubtedly declined due to the sheer neglect by the Legal Education Committees of the Provincial Bar Councils and The Pakistan Bar Council. The Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan had to take steps, which was supposed to be done by the Legal Education Committees of the Bar Councils, to improve the legal education in Pakistan. The Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan on 8th September 2018 vide its judgment in CP No.134/2012 subsequently reported in 2019 SCMR 389, provided the guidelines for the improvement of legal education in Pakistan. Since the Legal Education Committees of the Provincial Bar Councils and the Pakistan Bar Council have certainly failed to do anything to improve legal education in Pakistan, the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan had to put a ban against holding of evening classes of law colleges and had to put a ban on the admissions to three-years LLB programmes.
The Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has occasionally sought to address various problems with legal education; the Honourable Court has identified several reasons for the decline of legal education however the Court cannot provide a complete solution, as the Pakistan Bar Council is obliged to introduce and enforce rules to improve the legal education in Pakistan. The Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan had to introduce the Special Equivalence Examination for law graduates of foreign universities, and Law Graduate Assessment Test (LAW-GAT) for law graduates seeking enrolment to the Bar, to improve the legal education in Pakistan. Astonishingly, despite the clear guidelines by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Provincial Bar Councils are uninterruptedly issuing licences on the Two-Years “Fast track/Graduate Entry” LLB degrees and on the “One-Year Law Diploma Certifications”. Law students in Pakistan have to pass at least 12 courses/subjects after completing a continuous 3-4 years of full-time university, accordingly after completing 3-4 years of continuous full-time university and after passing at least 12 courses/subjects, a law-graduate is eligible to get a license to practise law in the lower courts of Pakistan, however the “University of London External Programme” offers an LLB Degree by the name/title of “FAST-TRACK GRADUATE ENTRY ROUTE”. The two-year LLB Degree can be obtained by simply passing just 9 courses/subjects in two years.
It is worth mentioning that the Indian Bar Council and other Commonwealth countries do not consider a “two-year LLB Degree” as a qualifying or practicing Law Degree. Additionally, in the United Kingdom (UK) a law student with two-year LLB Degree is not allowed to practice law in UK courts, unless he/she gets an admission in one year “BPTC” or “LPC” programme, consequently a law student with a 2-years LLB Degree in UK has to pass further 12 subjects of “BPTC” or “LPC” in order to get a license to practise law in UK. Surprisingly, the Provincial Bar Councils of Pakistan are unceasingly issuing licences on “One-Year Law Diploma Certifications” and on the “two-year LLB degrees” which is contrary to the Bar Council Legal Education Rules 2015 and contrary to Legal Practitioner and Bar Council Act 1973 thus continuously undermining the quality of legal education in Pakistan. Additionally, it is a fact that the Provincial Bar Councils do not have any mechanism to verify the LLB degrees or transcripts of the Law Students or to check/verify the Criminal Records of the law students, resultantly the Provincial Bar Councils are issuing licences without checking/verifying the Criminal Records of law students. To make the matters worse, under the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973, the requirement of a minimum of two-year experience in district courts, along with an interview, has become a mere formality in the granting of a licence to practise before the High Courts.
There is virtually no impediment or selection criteria for any law graduate to be granted the license to practise before our courts of law. The Bar Councils are engaged more in Bar politics than regulating the legal education. Section 13(1)(j) of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 states that:- Functions of the Pakistan Bar Council – [1] subject to the provisions of this Act and the rules made there under, the functions of the Pakistan Bar Council shall be- (j) to promote legal education and prescribe standards of such education in consultation with the universities in Pakistan and the Provincial Bar Councils. The Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in its aforementioned judgement observed that “the Bar as an institution also plays an important role in improving the quality of legal education. Provision of good legal education is inextricably linked with dispensation of justice”. It is pertinent to mention that the Sindh Bar Council is the only Provincial Bar Council in Pakistan which took strict measures in regards to granting of licenses to law graduates & have officially requested the Provincial Inspector General of Police to provide the facility of the Criminal Record Verification System. As a lawyer, I humbly request the Vice Chairman of The Pakistan Bar Council to take immediate steps to improve the quality of legal education in Pakistan.
—The writer is a Barrister and practices law in Karachi.

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