The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday inquired from the Union of India and the state of West Bengal if advocates' clerks can be considered to be belonging to the unskilled/skilled, unorganised labour sector, for the purpose of relief amidst the nationwide lockdown.
Hearing the petition by the High Court Law Clerks Association, the Chief Justice-led bench took note of their grievance that on account of the shutdown of courts, these clerks are "struggling for survival".
Requiring the Central and the state governments to "consider whether the advocates' clerks, who have filed the present petition, can be considered to be belonging to the unskilled/skilled, unorganised labour sector", the Court further asked "if so, and in any event, what relief can be granted to them since they submit that they are struggling for survival".
The Division required a copy of the petition to be served on the Advocate General for the state as well as the Counsel for the Union of India, asking them "come back with proper instructions in the aforesaid regard on the next date of hearing", being May 29.
The Calcutta High Court was also informed by the West Bengal Bar Council on Tuesday that amidst the lockdown, about 22000 applications for financial aid have been received from Advocates and the same are being processed.
The same bench was told that the State Bar Council needs to obtain permission from the Bar Council of India before starting disbursement of such financial aid to Advocates. "A letter has been written by the Bar Council of West Bengal to the Bar Council of India seeking such permission, but no response has been received till date to such letter by the State Bar Council", it was urged on behalf of the WB Bar Council.
Further, The High Court on Tuesday also requested the Centre and the state of West Bengal to look into the issue of payment of the outstanding fees of the Government Advocates at the appropriate level.
A writ petitioner submitted before the Division Bench that huge amounts on account of lawyers' fees for rendering professional services are outstanding and payable by the State Government as well as Central Government to Advocates who represent these governments. It was urged that if such dues of the lawyers are cleared, the same shall mitigate the hardship of the Government Advocates to a great extent.