In a plea seeking implementation of the CM Advocates Welfare Scheme, the Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Government to to take all steps required for the immediate procurement of insurance policies for the 29,098 Advocates whose names have been verified by the Bar Council of Delhi.
The Single Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that the purpose of the Scheme would be rendered nugatory if insurance policies are not obtained for them during the outbreak of an unprecedented pandemic, as is currently prevalent.
Today, BCD claimed that the Delhi Government should obtain the insurance policies of all the registered advocates who are 29,098 in number and the policies should then be forwarded to the said advocates.
Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev, who appeared for the BCD, referred to Sections 3(g) and 24 of the Advocates' Welfare Fund Act, 2001and submitted that such schemes, which are floated for the purposes of advocates have to be implemented by the appropriate Government and thus, once the names of the advocates have been verified by the BCD, the insurance should be immediately obtained for the advocates.
While highlighting that the Delhi Government doesn't adopt any adversarial stand on this issue, Senior Advocate Rajiv Nayyar, who appeared for the said government, submitted that as a first step, since the names of 29,098 advocates stand verified by BCD, at least the insurance in respect of those advocates can be implemented.
Mr Nayyar further submitted that the notice inviting tender has to be issued by the GNCTD and the Court may pass appropriate orders in respect thereof without prejudice to the rights of the GNCTD and subject to the adjudication of the larger issues arising in these cases.
Senior Advocate Amarjit Singh Chandiok, who appeared for one of the Petitioners, submitted that an important feature of Place of Practice (Verification) Rules, 2015, is that it is the `place of practice', which entitles an advocate to seek registration under the local Bar Council, and not the place of residence.
Therefore, Mr Chandiok argued, that the distinction, which is sought to be carved between advocates, who are residents of Delhi and those who are not residents of Delhi, for the purpose of extending the scheme, would be completely unlawful and untenable.
The court observed that the issue of creating a distinction between advocates on the basis of residence can only be adjudicated after hearing all the parties as there are various legal issues which would arise.
While holding that there need not be any further delay in steps to be taken to provide insurance, the court directed that any verification of the said names which the GNCTD wishes to conduct, to check if they are on the electoral rolls of Delhi or not, would be done parallelly, to ensure that there is no delay in implementation of the Scheme. This verification would, however, be subject to the further adjudication of the legal issues arising in the present writ petitions.
The court further directed the Delhi Government to go ahead with the issuance of the Notice Inviting Tenders ("NIT") seeking bids from the insurance companies, in order to finalise the insurance company which would be awarded the tender for the group insurance and mediclaim insurance of the 29,098 Advocates.
The court said:
'Let the NIT be issued within a period of one week from today by the Principal Secretary, Department of Law, Justice and Legislative Affairs, GNCTD ...The process of opening all the bids shall be completed. After the GNCTD opens the bids and identifies the successful bidder, the decision of the GNCTD, taken in this regard shall be placed before the Court not later than two days before the next date of hearing.'
In addition to this, the BCD is directed to place on record, in a sealed cover, before this Court the list of the 29,098 advocates whose names have been verified. Apart from the said list, the BCD will place on record the list of Advocates, who may be hailing from the NCR region who are registered with it.
Responding to the Order BCD Chairman Advocate KC Mittal said;
"After a long struggle of more than 1 year, for 5L Mediclaim & 10L Term insurance policies for advocates, from Rs. 50 Crs, the dream will come true shortly, persuent to orders by Hon'ble Mrs. Justice Prathiba M. Singh, to benefit 29098 advs during Covid-19. We have still to travel a long way for our remaining advocate brothers and sisters in Delhi and NCR to be included"
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