Supreme Court Rejects Plea for 3-Year Law Course Post 12th Standard

In 'Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India & Another', the Supreme Court refused a PIL seeking a 3-year Bachelor of Law Course post 12th Standard, citing the importance of maturity in legal education.

In a recent development, the Supreme Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) presented by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The PIL aimed to prompt the Centre and the Bar Council of India (BCI) to establish an Expert Committee to evaluate the possibility of initiating a 3-year Bachelor of Law Course following the 12th Standard, akin to Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce, and Bachelor of Art Courses.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala, presiding over the bench, straightforwardly declined the plea, with Chief Justice Chandrachud remarking, "You can just withdraw it."

Initially, in a light-hearted manner, the Chief Justice questioned the necessity of a three-year law course immediately after high school, stating, "Someone might ask, Why have a three-year course at all and allow practice (of law) right after high school?"

Representing the petitioner, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh highlighted the disparity between the duration of law courses and other professional degrees. Singh pointed out that while engineering courses require four years of study post +12, law courses mandate five years, which might deter female and economically disadvantaged students.

However, Chief Justice Chandrachud countered this argument, noting that a considerable percentage of law school entrants are female and emphasizing the value of the five-year course in producing competent legal professionals.

Singh, in a lighter vein, mentioned the personal opinion of the Chief Justice, referring to an era when legal education spanned six years (3+3), later reduced to five years. He also cited the three-year law course in the United Kingdom (UK) as an example.

The court, however, remained firm in its stance, refusing to entertain the PIL and advising Singh to withdraw it.

In the PIL, Upadhyay contended that the five-year duration of law courses is unjust, arbitrary, and infringes upon Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The plea argues that the extended duration places an undue burden on students, both financially and in terms of time.

The petitioner's argument suggests that the current structure of law courses can be condensed into three years, similar to other undergraduate programs. The PIL invokes the names of esteemed legal figures like Fali S Nariman and Ram Jethmalani, who commenced their legal careers at a young age, questioning the necessity of the five-year integrated course.

Upadhyay also draws attention to the disparity between legal education and other career paths, where civil servants can start their careers immediately after undergraduate studies. The plea asserts that students are being shortchanged by the current system, which demands five years of study after the 12th standard.

Additionally, the PIL urges the Central government, the Bar Council of India, and the Consortium of the National Law Universities to develop a comprehensive strategy to attract top talent to the legal profession, ensuring fair trials and upholding the right to speedy justice guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.