The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the Advocates' Association of Bengaluru and Karnataka State Bar Council to evolve a scheme for the benefit of the registered Advocates' Clerks, who are suffering due to closure of courts during the lockdown.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna noted that the Advocates' Clerks "play an important role for the benefit of members of the Bar" and it thus observed that the Advocates' Association as well as the State Bar Council should lend a "helping hand" to the affected Clerks.
The observations have been made in a petition filed by the Karnataka State Level Advocates Clerks Association, seeking financial assistance from the KSBC. The Association had submitted that due to the lockdown, their incomes had virtually stopped or had been considerably reduced. Thus, they had sought assistance of Rs. 10,000/- for each member during the period of closure of court till commencement of normal functioning of courts.
Responding to this, the KSBC submitted that the clerks should look upon the Advocates who had employed them for necessary help. The Council also pointed out that their hands were tied as any financial assistance could not be offered to the Clerks during the pandemic situation, for the same was not mentioned in the Karnataka Registered Clerks' Welfare Fund Act, 1983 or the 2009 Rules framed thereunder.
Concurring with this submission, the bench recorded,
"After having perused the provisions of the said Rules of 2009 and in particular Rule 6, we find that payment from the fund can be made to the registered clerks and/or their families only in two contingencies. The first contingency is of a member ceasing to be a registered clerk and the second contingency is of the unfortunate event of death of a member. Considering the scheme of the said Rules of 2009, the fund established under sub-section (1) of Section 27 of the said Act of 1983 cannot be utilized for extending a helping hand to the registered advocates' clerks for meeting the situation created by pandemic of COVID-19."
Nevertheless the court remarked that the Advocates' Association as well as the State Bar Council should assist the Clerks, registered under the High Court of Karnataka Rules, 1959, during such testing times.
The court has permitted the Petitioner-Association to implead the Advocates Association of Bengaluru as party respondent to the petition and it observed,
"As most of the members of the petitioner are registered clerks under the said Rules of 1959, the Advocates' Association of Bengaluru, the petitioner –Association and the Karnataka State Bar Council should come together and evolve a scheme for giving helping hand to the affected advocates' clerks.
It will be appropriate if before the next date, the office bearers of the second respondent convene a joint meeting of the office bearers of the Petitioner-Association and the office bearers of the third respondent- Advocates' Association of Bengaluru for evolving a scheme for the benefit of the registered advocates' clerks."
In the interregnum, the bench has advised the Petitioner-Association to create a fund for the welfare of its members by approaching the senior members of the Bar for seeking monetary help.
"If the petitioner-Association decides to set up a fund by opening a separate account, we are sure that the second respondent-Karnataka State Bar Council and the newly added Advocates' Association of Bengaluru will definitely assist the petitioner-Association for generating funds," the bench said.
The matter is now posted for further hearing on May 29, with the following closing remarks,
"We hope and trust that the second respondent and the newly added third respondent consider the cases of the affected advocates' clerks sympathetically and help them to survive in the present situation."
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