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SC Refuses To Hear Plea Seeking Exemption For Advocates From Paying Rent Of Professional Premises

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The Supreme Court today has refused to entertain Plea seeking direction to the Central Government to formulate an appropriate scheme to support advocates from paying their rent, exclusively for the professional premises waiving rent for lawyers chambers during lockdown.

A three-judge Bench of Justices N.V Ramana, S.K Kaul and Js. Gavai said, during lockdown, landlords and tenants are renegotiating contracts. We are not going to enter into this issue. Lawyers are not entitled to any special consideration. 

Following which petitioner sought liberty to withdraw the petition, which was granted by the bench. 

Court was hearing the Petition filed by AOR Aljo K. Joseph highlighting that due to closure of Courts during lockdown, lawyers have been unable to practice and earn their livelihood. Petition stated that the national lock down period be treated as ‘Force Majeure’ period exempting all the advocates from paying rent during that period.

According to the petitioner,  professionals including advocates have to pay their clerks and other offices staff during the lockdown, considering which it is becoming very difficult for them to pay rent for their offices premises, forcing them to loan money in absence of any other government assistance.

The petition pointed out that the Government of India through Ministry of Home through its order dated 29.03.2020 had directed all the Landlords not to collect any rent from the labourers and students for one month, however no policy has formulated by the GOI to support the hardship to the professionals and especially lawyers. The  Bar Council of Delhi had also written a letter to the  Judges of the High Court of Delhi requesting for the waiver of the rent for premises  used for professional purpose by the advocates, but till date no such action is taken.

“In the absence of a Force Majeure clause under the lease agreement, these people cannot claim frustration of contract and seek waiver of lease rental as consequence of a Force Majeure event, thereby forcing all the professionals and lawyers to pay the rent which will create huge hardship to the majority of advocates in the country along with the other professionals. Non payment of rent or invocation Force Majeure provisions in their lease agreements or any Unilateral decision may lead to termination of the lease agreement by the lessor for breach of the agreement,” stated in the petition.

Js. S.K Kaul while hearing the plea observed, “Tomorrow engineers will come, architects will come. How can we give special dispensation to lawyers? This is unreasonable for us to do. There maybe old ladies, aged persons as landlords. How can we say this?”

For Supreme Court Bar Association which had intervened in the plea, Senior Advocate Kailash Vasudev appeared and said, “We are not saying rent should not be charged. We are only saying that non-payment should not be made ground for eviction during lockdown.”

The Court said that it was not going to enter into this issue as petitioners were not entitled to any special consideration.

-India Legal Bureau

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