Abuzz with activity, the office of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu & Puducherry resembles a well-oiled software company. Poring through neatly stacked fresh enrolment applications, the staff are immersed in processing them with alacrity, under the watchful gaze of the Secretary C.Raja Kumar, known for his integrity and no-nonsense, meticulous approach. It appears that touts have been banished and a veneer of transparency seems well and truly in place.
Far from slowing things down, the pandemic has presented the statutory body with a plethora of challenges. Confronting them head-on, the core team comprising Chairman P.S. Amalraj, Vice Chairman V.Karthikeyan, S. Prabhakaran, Vice Chairman, Bar Council of India, Chairman – Enrolment Committee K.Balu and a stickler for implementation – the ever competent Secretary Raja Kumar, among other members, have put in place systems that are relatively seamless and user-friendly. Whenever inevitable glitches are flagged, they are addressed with a sense of urgency.
The Online Enrolment Application protocol is a case in point. Documents, ranging from marksheets and degrees to affidavits are uploaded, forms filled in and application fees remitted online, with receipts generated pronto. Candidates are then emailed the date for physical or postal submission of the print out of their application along with the main original degree or provisional certificate. The verification is quite foolproof and I’d dare say, comes across as more stringent than Passport Applications! While school certificates and police clearance are online, the genuineness of college degrees, all in strict compliance with a Madras High Court Order, are cross-checked through letters to the respective institutions. For older candidates with a gap in their careers, the scrutiny is more, with the insistence on their income tax returns to detect employment, if any, during their law study period. The status of applications is periodically updated on the website. The entire process is perhaps unwittingly, a preparatory exercise for online filing of cases in Court!
As opposed to the earlier practice of bi-annual enrolment functions, the event is conducted almost bi-monthly in a hybrid mode, with many Chennai candidates invited for a crisp offline oath taking ceremony with speeches by sitting High Court judges and key bar council officials and the online option for outstation applicants. As family members are not allowed due to the Covid restrictions, the events are streamed live on the official youtube channel. There have been instances of parents shedding tears of joy on seeing their children swearing allegiance to the Constitution of India, webcast on youtube. Emotions galore minus the ostentation and bursting of crackers, in the past.
In about a week, the provisional enrolment certificates and temporary identity cards, pending clearance of the All India Bar Exam, are sent by Speed Post.
A common thread of fairness is perceptible. On the one hand, the council is unsparing when it comes to initiating action against lawyers who flout rules. On the other hand, it takes up the gauntlet of advocates and judges who face threats and attacks. A steady stream of Press Releases and appeals for views from the bar on the proposed Advocates Protection Bill are too conspicuous to be missed.
Taking cognisance of the loss of livelihood for junior advocates and those from mofussil areas, the Bar Council has streamlined the payment of stipend. The coffers have been replenished by contributions from seniors in the profession. A covid vaccination drive has also become a regular feature.
In sync with the lofty traditions and reputation of the Madras Bar, here’s a statutory body that has been working diligently to ensure that membership is truly a badge of honour.