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Legal Profession in India: Evolution, Historical Development, and Regulations

The legal profession is an important limb of the machinery for the administration of justice. Without a well-organized profession of law, the courts wouldn't be in a position to administer justice effectively. A well-organized system of judicial administration postulates a properly equipped and efficient bar.

>What is the legal Profession?

The profession of law is one of the oldest and noblest professions. The person in the legal profession is called an advocate or lawyer. An advocate is an officer of justice and a friend of the court. The central function that the legal profession must perform is nothing less than the administration of justice. An advocate assists the parties in drafting economic transactions like contracts, agreements, deeds, wills, etc. An advocate should provide free legal aid to the poor and deserving people on compassionate grounds.

Development of Legal Profession in India:

Development of the legal profession In India can be divided into the following phases:
  1. Legal profession in Ancient India
  2. Legal Profession in Medieval India 3) Legal profession in British India
  3. Legal profession in India after Independence.

Legal Profession in Ancient India:

In India during the earlier period, people live in small groups. The head of these groups or tribes delivered justice under the open sky before all the members. There was no specialist like a lawyer during those days. When kingship was established, the king delivered justice. King was advised by his councilors. The law of those days was rooted in Hindu religion and custom.

From the stories of Maryada Ramayana and Vikramaditya, we are well aware of the wise men who solved the critical cases of those days. During those days, the sufferer presented complaints before the king and the king with the help of his religious heads and wise courtier delivered the judgment.

Legal Profession in Medieval India:

During the Muslim period, there was the existence of the Legal profession, as the party of the litigation appoints their vakils. This body decides the case and they were paid a percentage of the amount in the suit. However, in this period the legal profession was not so organized. Vakils performed their work as an agent for the principal but not as lawyers.

Legal Profession in British India:

During the British period, the model legal system was developed in India. Before 1726, the courts derived their power, not from the British Crown but the East India Company.
  1. Charter of 1726:
    The year 1726 marked the beginning of a new phase in the evolution of judicial institutions in India. The mayor's courts were established in the presiding towns of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, they were the royal courts. The courts heard all civil suits, action pleas between parties, they followed the procedure based on English law. But there were no facilities to get the legal training. Many persons who do not know law were used to practice before the said courts. The Mayor's court has no jurisdiction in criminal cases. The criminal jurisdiction was conferred on the governor.
  2. Charter of 1753:
    It was issued to modify the charter of 1726. This charter also ignored significant provisions for legal training and education relating to legal practitioners and as such, after this charter also the legal profession was not organized.
  3. Charter of 1774:
    The British crown issued a charter in 1774 by which the Supreme Court of judicature was established at Calcutta. Clause 2 of the Charter empowered the said Supreme Court to approve and enroll advocates and Attorney-at-law. The Supreme Court had powers to remove any advocate or Attorney on reasonable cause.
    Even the Charter of 1774 didn't provide for the appearance of the Indian Legal Practitioners to appear and to plead before the Supreme Court.
    'Advocate' means British and Irish Barristers.
    'Attorney' means the British Attorney or Solicitor.
  4. The Bengal Regulation Act of 1793:
    This act for the first time provided for a regular legal profession for the company's court. Under the regulation, only Hindu AND Muslims were entitled to be enrolled as pleaders.
  5. Indian High Courts Act, 1861:
    Under this act, The British Crown issued the Charter to establish one High Court in each presidency town. The civil Courts were organized in provinces also subsequently.
  6. Legal Practitioners Act, 1879:
    It was enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to legal practitioners. It provided that an Advocate or vakil on the roll of any high Court can practice in all the courts subordinate to the courts on the role of which he was entered. According to this act, the High court was empowered to make rules consistent with the act as to suspension and dismissal of pleaders and mukhtars. Pleaders and Mukhtars were the Indian lawyers, but advocates were to be the barristers.
  7. Indian Bar Committee 1923:
    It was constituted under the Chairmanship of Sir Edward Charminar. It was to consider the issue of the organization of the bar on an Indian basis. The committee didn't favor the establishment of the All-India Bar Council. It was of the view that a bar council should be constituted for each High Court. The committee suggested that in all High Court a single grade of the practitioner should be established, and they should be called Advocates. Further suggested that the Bar committee should have the power to enquire matters calling for the disciplinary action against a lawyer and High Court should be given disciplinary power to punish the guilty.
  8. Indian Bar Council Act, 1926:
    To give effect to some of the recommendations of the Indian Bar Committee 1923, The Indian Bar Council Act was enacted in 1926. The main purpose of the act was to provide for the constitution and incorporation of the Bar Council for certain courts, to confirm powers and impose duties on such councils and also to consolidate and amend the law relating to legal practitioners of such courts. A provision was made in the act for the establishment of the Bar council for every high court. Every Bar Council was to consist of 15 members. Four of such members were to be nominated by the concerned High Court and 10 of them were to be elected by the Advocates of the High Court from amongst themselves.

Legal Profession in India After Independence:

  1. All India bar Committee, 1951:
    All India Bar Committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Justice S.R. Das. The committee in its report recommended the establishment of an All India Bar Council and State bar Council. It recommended the powers of enrollment, suspension, or the removal of advocates to the Bar Council. Further recommended that there should be no further recruitment of non-graduated pleaders or Mukhtars.
  2. Advocates Act, 1961:
    The central government enacted the Advocates Act in 1961. This act has been in force in entire India. It brought revolutionary changes in the legal profession in India. It sets out to achieve the utility and dignity of the profession of law on an All-India basis. The preamble of the act says that the act amends as well as consolidates the law relating to legal practitioners.

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