Unregistered architects cannot build a name for themselves

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Architects

The Supreme Court in a recent judgment held that section 37 of the Architects Act, 1972, does not prohibit individuals not registered under the act from taking up the practice of architecture and its related activities.

In the Council of Architecture v Mukesh Goyal case, the court was hearing an appeal against the Allahabad High Court’s verdict, where it was held that section 37 only prohibits unregistered individuals from using the title “architect”.

The high court had held that the Promotion Policy, 2005, which allowed for individuals not holding a degree in architecture being appointed to the Class II post of associate architect, did not contravene section 37 of the Architects Act, as they would be carrying out the activities of an architect. The court held that “mere nomenclature of the particular post will not in any way be said to violate the provisions of the Architects Act, 1971.”

In appeal, the Supreme Court observed that where a plain reading of the text of the statute leads to an absurd or unreasonable meaning, the text of the statute must be construed in light of the object and purpose with which the legislature enacted the statute as a whole.

The court observed that the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Architects Act makes it evident that the legislature was undoubtedly concerned with the risk of unqualified persons undertaking the construction of buildings, leading to costly or dangerous structures. In guarding against this risk, the legislature first set out a minimum standard of statutorily recognized qualifications to be met before an individual is designated as an architect under the Architects Act.

The court observed that architecture undoubtedly constitutes a highly specialized profession, requiring the possession of minimum educational qualifications. However, architects are, by and large, engaged by means of a contract for services. In other words, architects provide a set of specialized services towards the larger goal of construction. They are not embarking on construction independently of other actors.

By virtue of the Architects Act, anybody engaging the services of an individual calling himself or herself an architect is assured that such an individual possesses statutorily recognized educational qualifications, and is competent to complete the task at hand.

The court further explained that the legislature chose to define an “architect” as an individual registered under the Architects Act, and not as an individual practising architecture or its related activities. Thus, the legislature limited the regulatory regime created by the Architects Act to the first class of individuals.

The court observed that in protecting the public from the risk of the second class, untrained individuals, the legislature had two options: (1) it could bar this second class of individuals from engaging in the profession altogether (as it had done with physicians and advocates); or (2) it could prevent this second class of individuals from calling themselves architects.

The court held that the statement of objects and reasons made it clear that the legislature chose the second option and, in fact, went to great lengths to clarify that choice. The legislature stated that with the passing of the legislation, it shall be unlawful for an unregistered individual to designate himself as an architect.

The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at lbhasin@gmail.com. Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.