The State has assured the Kerala High Court that advocates and their clerks will be allowed to move to and from their offices, courts, another other legal fora amid restrictions imposed on movement in the wake of the spike in COVID-19 cases in the State of Kerala.
The Government's submission came in response to Public Interest Litigation by a lawyer named Melwin Byju, through Advocate G Sreekumar (Chelur) who sought allowances on the movement of advocates amid the restrictions imposed in Kerala to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
The Vacation Bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Dr Kauser Edappagath recorded the State's submission and directed that the case be posted on Friday for further hearing.
However, advocates would not be exempt from checking, but would be allowed movement upon production of identity documents and on disclosing where they were headed, the Senior Government Pleader submitted.
Notably, another petition, moved yesterday by the All India Association of Jurists and a lawyer, through Advocates John Mani V, Sriram Parakkat, Jayant S, Jackson Johny, Sethulakshmi KK, Gayathri Menon, Xavier Thomas V T, MS Vishnu Shankar also urges for a designation of advocates as essential service workers.
The plea averred that lawyers play a key role in the administration of justice and facilitate access to justice, which is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
"The continuous functioning of the Judiciary cannot be put to rest and therefore, it has to function at all times with the participation of the advocates and hence by its very nature services rendered by Advocates, Advocates Clerks and their offices is an essential service as the same caters to the citizens fundamental right to access to justice through an Advocate enshrined under Article 14, 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution," the petition stresses.
Stating that their representations to the effect went unheeded, the plea takes issue with the fact that print and electronic media have been included within the category of essential service workers.
"The Petitioners are also aggrieved by apparent arbitrary discrimination being done by the 1st and 2nd respondents (state) against the entire fraternity of legal profession by not including them in the category of essential service, whereas the respondents have included even print and electronic media in the category permitted to function during the Covid pandemic," the petition stated.
Byju's petition is expected to be taken up next on Friday, May 7, 2021.