The Supreme Court Bar Clerk's Association has moved a petition before the Apex Court asking for the Central government to be directed to pay a monthly amount of Rs. 15,000 to each member, on account of the financial hardships faced by them over the last three months.
Stating that a number of members have not even received their basic salary in these months, the petitioner Association urges the Top Court to direct the Government to disburse the aforementioned amount to each member with effect from June, 2020 till the time normal functioning of the Court is not restored.
Alleging a violation of their Right to Life under Article 21, the Association apprises the Court of the financial crunch being faced by most of its members, as a result of the nationwide lockdown, imposed since March 24.
"…most of the clerks are on the verge of penury having absolutely no money to even look after basic facilities, likely health and education of children and even arranging food for their family members. Thus, there is grave violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution because of the action / inaction of the Respondents (Centre and State Governments) where no alternative has been provided to the persons like the members of the Petitioner Association."
The role of clerks is "intrinsically linked to the work discharged by advocates". Given that the income of a lawyers is generated through fresh filings, and since there have been very few filings in the last two months, members of the Association have not been paid by their advocates as they too do not have the money, adds the petitioner.
Thus, the Association presses the need to come up with a scheme which is specifically aimed at ensuring the sustenance and survival of Supreme Court Clerks during uncertain times.
"…members of the Petitioner Association, unlike clerks working with lawyers in High Court and trial courts, do not even have fall back in the family or near and near ones. The members of petitioner come from far of places in Assam or Kerala. It's therefore necessary to formulate scheme for their sustenance and basic survival to implement the constitutional guarantees under Article 21 of our Constitution."
Further claiming that the 'present miseries' which have arisen for the members of the Association are a direct result of the lockdown ordered by the Centre, and it is incumbent upon the Government to protect not only the health of people at large, but also the livelihood of every individual.
"The health of people cannot be protected by causing uncompensated miseries to individuals particularly the low income people like the Advocate's clerks."
Asserting that the Government owes a duty of care to all its citizens, including members of the Association, it is pointed out that clerks have thus far received no financial aid or support from their respective States and have also not been covered under any specific scheme formulated by the Centre.
"The Union had announced a 20 crore financial aid pack in the month of May, which covers small scale industries, migrant workers and other financially distressed groups of persons, however, no such scheme has been formulated for the members of the Petitioner Association and other similarly placed persons, in the profession of "Clerk", which is prevalent all over India. These members are an integral and indispensable part of our legal system and their survival must be given utmost importance."
It has further been claimed that work continues to be scarce at this point, as the normal functioning of Courts does not appear to be resuming anytime soon, despite believing the situation might have changed from June 1. While their grievances continue to mount, there seems to be no action from the Government to redress the same, adds the petitioner. The question regarding the formulation of a national plan for grievance redressal is also thus raised:-
"The Sec 11 of Disaster Management Act of 2005 contemplates for framing of national plan to redress these grievances. But no such plan has been framed."
Therefore, it is additionally prayed that the Government be asked to come up with a National scheme at the earliest, wherein the terms and amount of ex-gratia compensation is clearly specified.