The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought response from the Centre, the Reserve Bank of India and the Bar Council of India, in a plea seeking the inclusion of advocates within the definition of “Professional” as provided under the MSME Act, so as to make advocates eligible to access welfare schemes of the Government.
The petitioner challenging the eligibility criteria to access the development and promotional schemes under the aegis of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006.
The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice and listed the matter for hearing on October 12. Abhijit Mishra, the petitioner-in-person, informed the Court that his earlier petition on the same subject was dismissed by the Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, stating that PIL for the benefit of a class of persons can only be preferred if the affected persons are unable to access the courts, and advocates are capable enough to approach the Court, if aggrieved.
He submitted that this requirement has been satisfied now, as being a law student, he is capable to approach the court.
Filed by one Abhijit Mishra, a law student, and by one Payal Bahl, a practising Advocate, the plea alleges that the Government has not raised any concern towards development of welfare schemes dedicated to Advocates.
Claiming that the eligibility criteria used to define “Professionals” under the MSME Act, to access the development and promotional schemes, is ‘highly biased’ and ‘restrictive’ towards the profession of Advocates, the plea inter alia prays for an amendment in the said definition so as to include within its ambit the Advocates.
The plea seeks a direction to the Ministry of Finance, the RBI and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, to develop various schemes for the welfare of the Advocates, in consultation with the BCI.
In addition, the plea seeks a direction to the BCI to initiate digital adoption training programs for the Advocates for embracing digital technology for the administration of justice; as also to develop online training programs, code of conduct for the Advocates and litigants for attending virtual hearings before the courts.
The plea highlights that various representations were made before the concerned authorities, but no response has been received as yet.
The plea states thus: “Advocates are imminent stakeholders of the Bar and Bench.” It is unfortunate that despite being essential pillars in the administration of justice, they are not eligible to various development schemes of the Government, the plea adds.