Recent judgment by the Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi that Section 37 of the Architects Act did not prohibit individuals not registered under the Architects Act from undertaking the practice of architecture and its cognate activities will have far reaching consequences and the Council of Architects need to act on it very fast.
This judgment has forced us to visit the very definition of the term architect which is the base for the whole profession. Till now various High Courts have given judgments in different ways but the present SC judgment puts all of them to rest and gives a new interpretation to the term which is vastly different from what we all assumed so far.
The definition of ―architect provided by the Architects Act is a person whose name appears on the register of Architects maintained with the Council and not individuals engaged in the design, supervision or construction of buildings in India. Therefore, the Architects Act regulates individuals registered with the Council and does not control the practice of activities undertaken by individuals falling outside the regulatory regime applicable to registered Architects.
Primarily, the issue is whether the Architects Act prohibits individuals not registered with the Council from holding of the title of architect or prohibits them from practicing the activities undertaken by architects.
Most importantly, there is a significant difference between the Architects Act 1972 dealing with the profession of Architects and enactments dealing with Medical and Legal professions. Section 15(2) of The Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 bars any person other than medical practitioners enrolled on the State Medical Registers from practicing medicine or holding the office as “physician‟ or “surgeon‟ in any Government Institution or other Institution maintained by any local or other Authority. Similarly, section 29 of the Advocates Act, 1961, provides that only one class of persons are entitled to practice the profession of law, namely, advocates entered in the Roll of any Bar Council under the provisions of the Advocates Act. Thus, there is a clear bar on persons who are not enrolled with the State Medical Council or State Bar Council from practising as a Medical Practitioner or an Advocate.
In contrast, the Architects Act 1972 does not prohibit persons other than those who are registered as Architects from practising the profession. Section 37 only prohibits any person other than a registered architect using the title and style of Architect. It does not prohibit a person, who is not a registered as an Architect with the Council of Architecture from carrying on or discharging any function that can be carried on by a registered Architect.
The law only objects calling the persons discharging the functions related to architecture, as “Architects‟ when they are not registered as Architects. Even Engineers, therefore, who do not have a degree in Architecture (and who are not registered Architects) but having qualifications in Engineering and experience in design and supervision, may perform the function which are normally performed by an Architect.
According to the Bench, though the section 37 bars a person other than a registered architect or a firm of architects from using the title and style; it does not prohibit him from rendering architectural service so long as he does not use the expression architect and does not describe his firm, if any, as a firm of architects.
This also means that others like civil engineers can legally engage themselves in architectural activities without calling themselves as architects which was not perhaps the intent of the people who framed the law. Therefore, Council of Architecture should take proactive steps to get the law amended and ensure that only the members of CoA engage themselves in the profession.