It is shocking in the extreme that a verification drive by the Bar Council of India (BCI) has found that the number of fake lawyers across the country could touch a whopping 50 per cent. The BCI chief, Manan Kumar Mishra, told a gathering which included Chief Justice J. S. Khehar and other judges of the Supreme Court recently that the council’s two-year drive has shown that the numbers of genuine lawyers could be as low as 55-60 per cent and the campaign to identify the ‘fake’ ones is not yet over. Chief Justice Khehar’s intervention that the BCI must go after not just those with fake law degrees but also those who have no qualification and those who had never gone to college but managed to enter the legal profession, stands to reason and must be pursued. That these people work without a licence and go to court without due authority is appalling indeed. It speaks poorly of the system of regulation and detection of improprieties and while BCI needs to be congratulated for this survey it is difficult to comprehend how the judiciary and the country at large have been taken for a ride all these years.
If the fake lawyers are weeded out as they should be, the already depleted strength of the lawyer community would come down sharply. The silver lining in this would be that this would predictably enhance the quality of justice. Coupled with the fact that there is a huge backlog of vacancies for judges too at all levels of the judiciary, it adds up to an alarming situation of justice delayed and denied which brooks remedial action on a war footing. Justice Khehar’s advice to the apex lawyers’ body to improve the quality of legal institutions through training and to make lawyers competent enough to discharge their obligations towards society is pertinent and well-intentioned. His stress on teaching young lawyers the right ethics is also beyond question. There is no denying that the time for action has long arrived. The judiciary and the government must work together to remedy the situation and to iron out the inadequacies in the legal system. Justice Khehar has a short tenure of seven months ahead of him. His successor must take up from him the responsibility of keeping the process going.