LAHORE - Five years duration of LLB course will have no impact over the quality of law studies rather it will discourage people who seek a carrier in legal field, say top retired judges of the higher judiciary.

They say the decision of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) is illogical and it would increase the problems instead of solving them.

PBC, the top regulatory body of the lawyers, should focus on self-accountability and strictly follow the merit while issuing licence to law students, they said. It must hold ‘objective test’ for the law students and issue license only to those who qualify the test, instead of imposing such unproductive conditions.

It is for the third time in the country’s history that the duration of LLB degree has been increased from three years to five years. Moreover, PBC has asked the private institutions to admit only 100 students and those too only in the morning classes.

Initially, the degree was of two years, and then it was extended to three years and now it will be done in five years period like in the other professions including medical and engineering.

Talking to The Nation, Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed said the new rules of the PBC were totally wrong as they would not bring any respite to the problems of the legal community. The basic issue is the poor quality of education and mushroom growth of ghost law colleges which were granting degrees to the ineligible. He emphasised on the need for bettering quality of education, instead of making it difficult for the people to get legal education.

“The council’s decision is simply a cosmetic measure to improve the situation of the legal fraternity, it should take stand against ghost law colleges which are destroying legal profession,” said Justice Wajih.

He criticised the restriction on afternoon and evening classes. “Schedule or timings of classes should not be an issue, the main issue is the curriculum which must be improved and qualified teachers should be hired for legal education,” he said.

He argued on his point that LLB degree in his time was of two years but it was better in standard than the three years program adopted in the latter years when the quality of education decreased. “I believe three years are sufficient and better than five years time,” he said.

Justice (r) Nasir Saeed Sheikh said that PBC decision to increase the timing of LLB degree was wrong. It should have focused on self-accountability and enforced its rules for issuance of licences to the new comers of this profession. He believes that it was time that the educational institutions should focus on specialisation rather than extending the length of a course. The entry to the bar and issuance of licence should be strict, he suggested.

He also suggested that there should be a commission for legal education which should recommend rules and regulations to improve it in the country while retired judges and senior jurists should be the part of such commission.

“Though, some institutions are already running five years course of LL.B degree but three years are sufficient,” said Justice Sheikh, adding that “specialisation should be focused instead of putting bars on the law graduation”. “Bar should not issue licence to everyone,” said Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh.

However, Justice (r) Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday termed the five-year condition good for the community contending that legal profession was, in fact, the matter of people’s life and death, their freedom and rights and it must be of great standards.

He said “five years (course duration) step of the council is good because only the serious people will join this profession which subsequently will control the rush in this profession”. When pointed out that students and parents both would suffer if the course duration is suddenly increased to five years, he replied that it would have better impact on the legal profession overall.

Senior lawyer SM Zafar rejected five years period for LL.B degree and argued that duration had nothing to do with the problems of the legal profession; the real problem was of quality of education. He said the councils did not follow the merit and issued licences to the newcomers on political grounds.

“The councils issue licences on the recommendation of senior lawyers who contest bars’ elections simply to get votes,” said Mr Zafar. He said the councils first should hold self-accountability rather than making it difficult for the people, especially the poor, to get their constitutional right to education.

“Lawyers need to change their attitudes and the bars should hold tests/examinations to issue licenses to the students of law,” he added.

On Saturday, the PBC revised its legal education rules in view of deteriorating standard and quality of legal education. The bar also comprehensively reviewed its previous “Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules of 1978” as well as the rules regarding “Affiliation of Law Colleges” and “PBC (Recognition of Universities) Rules, 2015” consolidating the same in one set of rules and accordingly promulgated the “Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules, 2015”.

The new rules required the number of students admitted in first year LLB programme by a university/college shall not be more than 100 and there shall be only morning classes and no evening class shall be permissible.

However, the afternoon/evening classes being presently conducted by a law institute shall continue only till completion of three years or five years LLB courses of concerned students.

As per the new rules a university/college intending to impart legal education at the level of LLM/PhD shall have to seek prior permission/approval of the Pakistan Bar Council and the Higher Education Commission (HEC). An institute already offering LL.M/PhD shall have to seek ratification/approval of their said programme from the PBC and HEC within six months of promulgation of these rules. No university or degree awarding institution shall affiliate any law college after enforcement of the rules.

The bar announced that the universities/degree awarding institutions imparting legal education, shall certify and inform the PBC in writing, at the start of every academic year that each and every private law college affiliated with them, is implementing and adhering to these rules in letter and spirit.

No institution shall operate for imparting legal education under international/external/distance learning programme of any foreign university without getting No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan Bar Council. However, the institutions already doing so, shall approach the bar for issuance of NOC within six months of coming into force of these rules, the release adds.