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SC Takes Suo Moto Cognizance Of Financial Difficulties Of Advocates Amid COVID-19 ; Issues Notice To BCI, State Bar Councils

Radhika Roy
22 July 2020 8:18 AM GMT
SC Takes Suo Moto Cognizance Of Financial Difficulties Of Advocates Amid COVID-19 ; Issues Notice To BCI, State Bar Councils

The Supreme Court has taken suo moto cognizance of the financial difficulties being faced by lawyers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was hearing a plea filed by the Bar Council of India which sought for directions to the Centre/State and UT Governments for financial assistance to lawyers, on account of losses faced due to decreasing litigation work in wake of the pandemic.

The Bench issued notice, returnable within 2 weeks, to the Centre, Bar Council of India, State Bar Councils, each High Court's Registrar General, and recognized High Court Bar Associations. The Bar Associations have been directed to show cause why a fund for relief cannot be set up for deserving and eligible advocates.

The suo moto cognizance for lawyer's financial aid, will be taken up with BCI's plea.

The plea filed by the Bar Council of India highlights that the BCI itself does not have the funds to help the lawyers in need. It has therefore sought for directions to the Respondents to arrange financial assistance by way of interest free loan up to Rs. 3 lakhs each to advocates enrolled with the respective Bar Council of each State through the said Bar Council, repayable in reasonable monthly instalments at least 12 months after normal court functioning commences".

The petition, filed through Advocate SN Bhat, also seeks a direction to the Union of India and the respective State Governments to "financially support the needy advocates through respective Bar Associations by depositing the amount directly in the accounts of the said advocates after receiving the necessary details from the respective Bar Association".

The plea further avers that the prolonged closure of the courts and tribunals all over the country since March 2020 due to the lockdown has deprived the majority of the advocates their only source of income. It is highlighted that most of the advocates, especially youngsters, have no savings and are solely dependent on the working of courts for their livelihoods.

"The situation of some of them is so grim that it may not be an exaggeration to say that they face virtual starvation and they require urgent and immediate financial aid and succor", the plea states.

Today, Senior Advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, Chairman of BCI, appeared before the Court.

The Bench headed by the CJI dictated the Order, noting that the "unprecedented crisis demands unprecedent resolution"
as the pandemic had taken a "heavy toll on the rights of the citizens, and particularly, the legal fraternity".

"The legal fraternity is restricted to income – bound by rules. Not entitled to earn income by alternative means. Closure of Courts has led to a situation which has rid them of a sizeable proportion of their income and therefore, livelihood."

The CJI further observed that it was a
"dire circumstance"
and that medical advice dictacted against the resumption of Courts as doing the same would jeopardise the health of judges, lawyers, and equally important, the staff of the Court.

Accordingly, the Bench considered it appropriate to issue notice to all recognized Bar Associations of all High Courts to show cause why a fund for relief should not be set up for deserving and eligible advocates.

The Bench also observed that it is important to determine the norms for financial aid of such institutions, and therefore, issued notice to Union of India, Bar Council of India, and all State Bar Councils, as well as the Registrar General of each High Court.

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