Bar Council of India has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of all States to provide a minimum sum of Rs. 20,000/- per month as subsistence allowance to young lawyers, specifically those who are not financially well/needy in view of the lockdown imposed due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The letter implores the PM and the CMs on behalf of the legal fraternity comprising of young lawyers to make a provision of allocating necessary funds for providing the subsistence allowance from Centre Funds and/or State Government Funds and/or jointly by either providing for the same directly or through Advocate Welfare Fund of the respective State Bar Councils.
It acknowledges that "the entire world and entire country is passing through the most difficult time which we have ever witnessed in our lifetime owing to the menace of Corona Virus". Excepting professions providing essential services, all professions have gone into lockdown mode.
Consequently, advocates and courts continue to function in a limited/restrictive mode with urgent matters still being heard. Equating advocacy with dispensation of social duty, responsibility and service, the letter states:
"The Profession of Advocacy is a noble Profession and we are doing our bit in these trying times as appearing in courts and pleading on behalf of our clients help in keeping the legal and rightful social balance alive as human rights, title and interest and legal rights cannot be allowed to be violated even in such trying times. Our duty is nothing short of social duty, responsibility and service, which we are still discharging. Thus, those of our Advocates fraternity, attending and pleading in courts are not free from being infected from/with the Virus in spite of best precautions."
In light of the above, the letter goes on to assert that only a miniscule proportion of advocate (10%) can be stated to be in a position to survive and subsist without any earning during this time of crisis. The rest have no social security and their families are at the risk of facing financial crises in case anything happens to the advocates as many are the sole bread earners.
"Our Advocate brothers and sisters are self-respecting and maximum of them earn and live by the day or earnings of the week. However, in such a time of crisis, when the courts are working in a restricted manner, and clients out of justified precaution and fear are not flocking the courts, the work and earning opportunities have ceased."
The letter posits that decrease in work capacity has therefore made it difficult for young and needy Advocates to make their ends meet and provide basis sustenance for their families which could lead to them being in dire straits in cases of medical emergencies and could also result in stages of starvation.
By invoking the duties of a welfare State, the letter beseeches upon the PM and the CMs to provide a subsistence allowance to those Advocates who are in need of monetary assistance and have registered for the funds directly with the State Governments or through the State Bar Council help desks.
The letter also goes on to request for the creation of a helpline number, an email and a WhatsApp number for the same of allocation of funds/subsistence allowance as "otherwise deprivation of basic and essential facilities will surely lead them to starvation, illness and we dare not utter, even further. This can also be done through District Administration."
It is also noted that in a country where only a minor percentage of the population pays the taxes, Advocates have also been in the bracket of the highest tax payers in the country and therefore, there is a duty to ensure protection for the tax payers.
The letter ends with the statement that Advocates of the country are discharging their social duty in the face of adversity and risk of health and life despite not being in the position to earn their bread and butter. Thus, the Central/State Government(s) need to urgently note the same and provide the necessary financial assistance.
Click here to download letter