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Pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the lives of citizens and of the legal fraternity: Supreme Court

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New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court will continue hearing on Monday a suo motu cognizance taken by it on the plight and loss of income of lawyers during the pandemic.

A bench headed by the Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justices A. S. Bopanna  and V. Ramasubramanian had issued notice to the Central Government, State Governments & Union Territories, Bar Council of India (BCI) and all the State Bar Councils on July 27.

The suo motu PIL read: “Financial aid for members of bar associationsaffected by Pandemic” and states: “We are faced with an unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic. This would demand and unpredictable action for resolving the said crisis.”

The apex court noted that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the lives of citizens and, particularly, the legal fraternity. “We are conscious of the fact that the advocates are bound by rules which restrict their income only to the profession. They are not permitted to earn a livelihood by any other means. In such a circumstance, the closure of the courts has deprived a sizable section of the legal profession of income and therefore livelihood,” it said.

It further observed: “In these dire circumstances there is a constant demand to enable the resumption of the income from the profession by resuming the normal functioning of courts in congregation. This demand poses its own difficulties in the sense that an unqualified resumption of normal courts may jeopardize the health of all those who attend courts in congregation, i.e., judges, lawyers and equally important the staff of the courts. Nonetheless, we find that it is not possible to ignore the problem of livelihood of advocates. We therefore consider it appropriate, in the interest of justice, to issue notice to the recognized bar associations of the Supreme Court and of all the high courts to show cause why a fund for relief to eligible and deserving advocates should not be set up and donations for the same be invited from their own members or any other legitimate source. It would also be necessary to determine the norms for eligibility of such financial aid by the bar associations.”

“We consider it appropriate to issue notice to the Union of India, State Governments/Union Territories, Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils. Notice shall also be issued to the Registrars General of all the high courts. Notice be made returnable in two weeks,” the court order said.

The court had also stayed the proceedings in the similar matters, and where the cognizance had been taken by the various high courts of the Country regarding the same issue i.e. the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, the High Court of Telangana, the High Court of Madras and the High Court of Delhi. 

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