ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered the constitution of an independent committee to make suggestions for regulating and improving the quality of legal education in the country and directed the law ministry to provide assistance in the formation of the body.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial, said the proposed committee should determine the number of law colleges to be allowed to function as mushrooming of institutions affected the quality of teaching.

The court gave the order on a petition moved by Malik Aneeq Khatana, in which the petitioner had sought the issuance of an order restraining those lawyers from taking part in any elections who were enrolled either after passing on the basis of 40 per cent minimum marks, instead of 50 per cent, or without passing the Law Graduate Assessment Test (LAW-GAT).

The CJP directed the law ministry to constitute the standing committee after consulting bar councils across the country.

According to the petitioner, lawyers in Punjab find the standard of law education in the country “embarrassing and shocking” and feel that steps must be taken to stem the rot.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that no one knew better than judges how to bear criticism despite showing good intentions but in the end only truth prevails. The observation came when Supreme Court Bar Association President Ahsan Bhoon regretted that the court have tolerated criticism with great forbearance.

On July 22, 2019, former CJP Asif Saeed Khosa had observed during a hearing that immediate measures were needed to improve the quality of law teaching as well as to bring back the “nobility of the legal profession”.

“We will have to launch a movement for restoration of the nobility of legal profession,” Justice Khosa said.

Essential attributes

The Supreme Court, acting upon a petition brought by the Pakistan Bar Council, had mandated that sound professional training and skills in both academic and vocational disciplines must be essential attributes for ensuring good advocacy.

The judgement had identified that PBC was the key regulator for monitoring standards in legal education.

Consequently, the PBC framed the Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules, 2015 (Rules).

The petition regretted that in Pakistan, legal education has become a business and was no longer a medium of producing quality lawyers.

The most shocking example of this is the saturation of foreign degree programmes like the University of London degree courses, to which local regulations do not apply.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2022

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