The Supreme Court today refused to entertain of the plea seeking creation of emergency fund for lawyers affected during COVID-19 Lockdown while stating that its for the BCI to decide.
The Petitioner argued that Allahabad High Court, Jharkhand High Court and West Bengal High Court have taken up this issue. As the courts are shut down, independent advocates have no source of income.
A three-judge Bench of Js. N. V Ramana, Js. S. K. Kaul and Js. B. R. Gavai heard the petition for creation of emergency fund.
Js. S.K Kaul while hearing the plea asked that how can we direct creation of funds? We cant create special category for lawyers when unfortunately the whole country is facing a difficult situation. Let the Bar Council of India decide.
Js. Ramana highlighting efforts by various Bar Councils stated, “Some of the Bar councils have taken up this issue. They are paying funds to independent lawyers.”
Js. Kaul said that we have no funds to give to you. It’s for the Bar Councils to take action. We cannot tell the bar council what action to take.
Petitioner urged the Court to take a call and said that Advocates have a statutory right under Advocates Act. Supreme Court can direct Bar Council of India to take action but the Court did not agree and said that it is on Bar Council to take a call.
The letter, while highlighting the “tough time” being faced by young practising lawyers whose source of income is limited to litigation only, said that such advocates are facing financial crunch due to lockdown which, if extended further, would pose a serious threat to their life and liberty.
It was submitted in letter petition by Advocates that they were not advocating for the ”financial aid” as our ”fundamental right’ during the current pandemic. Through the petition, they were sharing the plight of young independent advocates who are facing the wrath of time.
It claimed that various state bar associations are coming up with financial aid schemes for advocates but there is “no uniformity or equality” in those policies and there is “grey area” regarding lawyers who are not registered with any associations.
Referring to the Advocates Act, 1961, the letter said it provides for creation of financial fund for lawyers to protect their rights, privileges and interest. It urged that an emergency fund should be created for young independent advocates who are in need of financial assistance during COVID-19.
The letter has also suggested several measures, including creation of dedicated single emergency pool fund with the help of bar and bench. It is pertinent to note that Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh & Sikkim, and Bar Council of Delhi have also provided financial Aid to Advocates.
-India Legal Bureau