ABOUT VARIOUS ASSOCIATIONS & BODIES
The structure and linkages between the various professional bodies of High Court lawyers is confusing to many. This page attempts to briefly explain the different jurisdictions and constitutions of these diverse associations.
THE BAR COUNCIL OF INDIA
The Bar Council of India is the apex registering and licensing authority in India. It controls and governs the working of all immediately subsidiary state-level bar councils. It is a statutory body constituted under the Advocates Act, 1961. You may want to see the BCI Rules.
THE BAR COUNCIL OF MAHARASHTRA AND GOA
The Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa is the licensing and registering authority for advocates in the State of Maharashtra and the State of Goa. No person can practice the profession of law in Maharashtra and Goa unless he is enrolled by the BCMG. The enrolment license is called a sanad. However, enrolment at this level does not restrict practitioners to courts in Maharashtra and Goa alone. An advocate on the rolls of the Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa can practice anywhere in the country, without additional enrolment, and in the Supreme Court of India.
THE BOMBAY BAR ASSOCIATION
The Bombay Bar Association is an association of lawyers practicing on the Original Side of the High Court. Practitioners on the Appellate Side have their own association. More about the Original and Appellate Sides.
OF GREEN PAPER, RED TAPE AND GOLD MOHURS
The dual system is charmingly quirky in many ways. Briefs are delivered wrapped in green paper, tied with a red string and folded lengthwise down the middle. Counsel continue to mark their fees in ‘guineas’ or gold mohurs (Gms), another legacy of the Raj. The exchange rate of the guinea still is Rs.15 to the guinea. There is no proposal to float the guinea since it has always been freely convertible at a fixed rate. The rate is not an issue either. Counsel just mark more guineas.
Abolished in the late-seventies (though proposed since the 1930’s or 1940’s), the ‘dual’ system, as it was called, drew a distinction between two types of Original Side practice. Counsel appeared in courts, drafted pleadings, researched law and gave advice in conference. They were briefed to do so by Solicitors or Attorneys. Counsel were roughly equivalent to barristers in England.
After Independence, the system continued to be followed in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and, to some extent, in Delhi. Typically, Attorneys work in firms, though many are sole proprietorships. They interface with clients, whereas counsel do not. Also, attorneys file their appearance (or vakalatnamas) in court and it is their name or their firm’s name that shows up on the daily cause lists.
While the dual system was in vogue, attorneys or solicitors were not permitted to address the court. They had to brief counsel. After the abolition of the dual system, attorneys can — and do — appear in court themselves. In theory abolished, the system continues in a reduced fashion even today, being widely regarded as a reasonably efficient division of labour.
Closely linked to the Bombay Bar Association is the Bombay Incorporated Law Society. This is an association—again, not statutory, but like a guild—of advocates who, while on the rolls of the Bar Council (they would have to be, didn’t you get it?), choose to practice as Solicitors or Attorneys. This ‘dual system’ is really a legacy from the British period, and not one that has any sanctity in law any longer (see box).
The Bombay Incorporated Law Society continues to conduct an examination for those who want to qualify as solicitors. The examination is very difficult. No one can style himself as a solicitor unless he has passed this examination and been admitted to the Law Society as a solicitor.
For details, contact the Bombay Incorporated Law Society at its office in the High Court Annexe Building. We cannot respond to queries about the Solicitor's exam.
This is an association of lawyers practicing on the Appellate Side of the High Court. In numbers it is much larger than the the Bombay Bar Association and functions out of independent premises. The AAWI has its own rules and constitution and is a wholly independent association. More about the Original and Appellate Sides.
The ‘sides’ really means the different types of jurisdiction exercised by the High Court. On the Original Side, the Bombay High Court can try original cases, i.e., cases filed directly in the High Court itself and not coming up in appeal from the lower judiciary. The Bombay High Court is a ‘Chartered High Court’ and derives its inherent jurisdiction from the Letters Patent, a charter signed by Queen Victoria. On the Appellate Side, the High Court hears appeals and matters coming up from the lower courts throughout the states of Maharashtra and Goa. Received wisdom has it that there is a traditional rivalry between the original and appellate sides and their respective associations. We at the Bombay Bar Association do not subscribe to this theory; our recent experience has been to the contrary. We believe that the larger public interest demands cooperation and amity between all High Court associations.
Essentially, that everyone with a law degree and on the rolls of the Bar Council is an Advocate. He may, in addition, be a Solicitor (or he may not). He may practice on the Original Side or the Appellate Side. Or both. Or neither, and may practice in any one of the lower courts. He may be a direct practitioner, which means that he does the work of a solicitor and appears in court. Or he may … well, you get the general drift.
WHOM TO CONTACT AND FOR WHAT
All this can be pretty confusing and it’s no wonder that we get inundated by email and enquiries that are, really, meant for one of the other bodies. Here’s our homegrown guide.
|If you want to know if your foreign degree is recognized for practice and enrolment||The Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa|
|If you are outside Maharashtra, are relocating to Maharashtra and want your license transferred from your home state to Maharashtra||The Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa|
|If you have a complaint against a lawyer.||The Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa|
|If you have an enrolment license, practice in the Bombay High Court and want to join the Bombay Bar Association||The Honorary Secretary of the Bombay Bar Association.|
|If you want placement with a firm of attorneys or solicitors or take the Solicitors' exam||The Bombay Incorporated Law Society|
|If you want to contact a lawyer on the appellate side, or join the Advocates Association of Western India.||The Advocates Association of Western India|