The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice on a petition filed by the Bar Council of Delhi seeking a direction to the Delhi Government to grant medical and term insurance to Advocates who are duly registered under the Chief Minister's Advocates Welfare Scheme, within a period of 15 days.
The single-Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh has granted time to the Government to apprise the court with the steps taken by it to implement the scheme. The matter has been posted for hearing on June 18.
In February last year, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had announced a budgetary provision of annual Rs 50-crore allowance for various welfare schemes for lawyers in Delhi-NCR.
Subsequently in November, 2019, the Delhi government announced that a Committee comprising 13 lawyers will be set up to recommend the utilization of Rs. 50-crore Advocates Welfare Fund.
The plea, filed through Advocates Amit Prakash Shahi & Yugansh Mittal states that it was only after several representations, the Delhi Government (Respondent No. 1) on March 20, 2020 issued an advertisement calling the Advocates enrolled with Bar Council of Delhi and who are voters in Delhi, to register for the Welfare Scheme by March 31.
However, the same was obstructed by the Covid-19 lockdown that was promulgated wef March 25, 2020, and due to the Delhi Government's website server being down.
"Because of the lockdown and the Respondent's server being down, many Advocates who wanted to register themselves, were not able to log in. The Petitioners received various complaints regarding their inability to register as the Respondent's server was down," the plea states.
Further it is submitted,
"in an extra ordinary situation of lockdown, where the offices were closed and not functional, the complaints regarding inability to register due to server being down continued and the Respondents were repeatedly reminded through email and WhatsApp messages, and also requested to extend the time up to 30.04.2020. with a hope that the lockdown will be lifted on 15.04.2020, and on return of normalcy, advocates will have sufficient time to get themselves registered. However, the Law Department of Respondents extended time only up to 14.04.2020, contrary to the request made by the petitioners in the facts and circumstances. The problems with the server continued in the meantime."
In this backdrop it is submitted that failure of the Government to further extend time is totally arbitrary and unreasonable.
It is contended that the non-extension of time for registration was a "deliberate attempt" to deprive a large number of Advocates, who fulfill the eligibility criteria, from benefitting under the scheme.
"The time fixed for registration during lockdown was too short in the situation faced in Delhi and the Respondents ought to have extended the time. By this act, Respondent No. 1 has deprived many advocates, who are legitimately entitled for being registered, but were denial opportunity, since they were not able to log in due to no fault of theirs, but the failure of Respondent No. 1," the plea states.
The Council has submitted that over a month has elapsed since notification of the Welfare Scheme however it has not been implemented so far even though the insurance policies as promised under the scheme have become necessary to provide treatment to lawyers, particularly during Covid-19.
Accordingly, it has sought for a direction to the Delhi Government to release money and issue insurance policies for Mediclaim for Rs.5 lacs and Term insurance of Rs.10 lacs to 29,098 Advocates who are already registered under the Welfare Scheme.
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