SC: Appeals Challenging CCI order regarding Legal Education have been dismissed

Team SoOLEGAL 6 Apr 2022 12:00am

SC: Appeals Challenging CCI order regarding Legal Education have been dismissed

On 4th of April 2022, the Apex court of India dismissed an appeal that challenged the orders passed by Competition Commission of India (CCI). The order questioned the Clause 28, Rules of Legal Education, 2008, which states that candidates who are of age 30 or more and from the general category are barred from pursuing legal education.


A Division Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh dismissed a case filed by Thupili Raveendra Babu, noting that the point in question could not be challenged in the competition jurisdiction and that an appropriate representation should be made to the Bar Council of India (BCI) in this regard.


The appellant had previously filed a complaint with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002, alleging that BCI had breached Section 4 of the Act.


The appellant, who is 52 years old, works as an executive engineer at the Ministry of Urban Development of India's Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and wishes to pursue legal education. On October 1, 2020, he took the LLB (3 year) entrance examination in the state of Andhra Pradesh and received first place in the state.


The BCI, according to the appeal, is an elected body of Indian lawyers. It governs both legal practice and legal education in India. It has complete authority over both legal education and legal practice in India.


The appellant claims in the CCI that Clause 28 of Schedule III, Rule 11 to Part IV – Rules of Legal Education, 2008, a part of the Bar Council of India Rules enacted under the Advocates Act, 1961, prohibits candidates from the General category who have reached the age of 30 from pursuing legal education. The BCI is said to have imposed maximum age restrictions on new entrants to legal education, so erecting indirect hurdles to new entrants into the legal profession. By ‘misusing its dominant position,' the BCI has integrated the contested Clause 28 in violation of Section 4 of the Act. The BCI has also made a significant contribution by doing so.


He claimed that the members of the BCI collaborated to decrease competition for its electors and create indirect barriers in the legal profession by enacting the aforementioned Clause 28. He has also claimed that members of the BCI who are in charge of the organization's affairs are abusing the BCI's dominating position in India's legal education.


Based on the foregoing, the appellant has petitioned the Commission to declare the contested Clause 28 to be unconstitutional and void ab initio, and to impose the maximum penalty on the BCI for violating Section 4 of the Act and engaging in colorable authority exercise.


The appellant has also asked the Commission for temporary orders suspending the contested Clause 28 under Section 33 of the Act. He claimed that the BCI has purportedly proved a prima facie case of breach of Section 4 of the Act, and that the balance of convenience is in his favour. He also claims that if Clause 28 is not suspended, he and many other legal aspirants will suffer irreparable loss and suffering in their pursuit of legal education in India.

The Coram, which included Chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta, Members Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi, held in CCI that the primary matter for examination is whether BCI is a "business" within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act. Under Section 2(h) of the Act, an 'enterprise' is defined as a person or a government department engaged in any activity pertaining to the supply of any form of service.


The BCI is a statutory agency formed under Section 4 of the Advocates Act, 1961, according to the Commission in this case. The BCI's functions are outlined in Section 7 of the aforementioned Act, which include promoting legal education in India and establishing standards for such education in cooperation with Indian universities and state bar councils. Furthermore, Section 49 of the Advocates Act, 1961 empowers the BCI to make rules for carrying out its responsibilities under the Act, including prescribing qualifications and disqualifications for membership in a Bar Council, minimum qualifications required for admission to a course of study in law at any recognised university, and prescribing legal education standards for Indian universities. As a result, it should be highlighted that the BCI appears to perform regulatory tasks in the legal profession.


It should be noted that the Commission had the opportunity to evaluate IRDAI's standing as a "business" under the Act in the matter of In re: Dilip Modwil and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), which was determined on September 12, 2014. According to the Commission, any entity can qualify as an "enterprise" if it engages in any activity that is related to the economic and commercial activities included in the definition. It was also noted that a body's regulatory functions are not necessarily subject to the Commission's jurisdiction.


According to the CCI, when the BCI appears to be discharging its regulatory functions, it cannot be considered an "enterprise" within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act, and thus the allegations made in relation to the discharge of such functions, which appears to be non-economic in nature, may not merit an examination under Section 4 of the Act.


"In light of the foregoing, the Commission believes there is no prima facie case under Section 4 of the Act, and the information filed against the Opposing Parties is instructed to be closed promptly under Section 26(2) of the Act. As a result, no case for award of relief(s) as sought under Section 33 of the Act emerges, and the same is likewise refused," the CCI's January 20, 2021, order notes.


Tagged: CPWD   Competition Act 2002   Legal Education  
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