The apex body of lawyers, Bar Council of India (BCI) has moved the top court through a writ petition seeking financial assistance, including disbursal of soft loans, to the needy advocates during the persisting COVID-19 pandemic which has crippled judicial functioning.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notice to the Centre and sought its response within two weeks on the BCI plea.
The bench, at the outset, told senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, appearing for BCI, that the court intends to take up the issues pertaining to needy advocates suo motu (on its own) and issued notices to the Centre, the BCI, all Bar associations and state bar councils and sought their response in two weeks.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta accepted the notice on behalf of the Centre, and Mishra on behalf of the BCI.
The top court also issued notice on the transfer petition filed by BCI seeking transfer of similar cases pending in different high courts to the apex court.
“The pandemic has taken a toll on citizens of the country including the legal fraternity”, the bench said and noted that as per the BCI rules lawyers are not entitled to take up any other profession to earn livelihood and legal profession is their only source of earning.
It said: “There is constant demand for resumption of normal functioning of courts but the resumption of normal court functioning jeopardises the health of judges, lawyers and staff of courts. Medical advice is not to start physical court hearing.
“We therefore consider it appropriate to issue notice to all bar associations of High Courts to show cause as to why funds for relief be not set up and further enable it to invite donations and it should be necessary to determine the norms for providing financial aid”.
The bench, while seeking reply within two weeks, said that the notice be issued to all state bar councils and bar associations through the registrar general of each High Courts.
In its writ petition, the BCI has asked for a direction to Union of India and all state governments to extend financial assistance to needy advocate due to the closure of courts and their restricted functioning and to grant them a soft term loan for sustaining their families.
Courts across the country are hearing urgent matters only via video link since last week of March due to the coronavirus pandemic making things difficult for common lawyers.
The petition has sought a direction to the Centre as well as all the states to arrange an interest-free loan of up to Rs 3 lakh each to advocates enrolled with the Bar Councils.
The loan, disbursed through the state bar councils, would be repayable in reasonable monthly instalments at least 12 months after normal court functioning commences, it said.
“In the alternative, direct the Union of India and the respective state government to financially support the needy advocates by depositing the amount directly in their accounts,” the BCI, through its chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra, said.
The petition claimed that a significant section of advocates, particularly the younger lawyers, “are in acute need of urgent financial support in the prevailing circumstances brought about by the global pandemic resulting in closure of courts for a long time initially and only partial functioning of the courts since then.”
“The very survival of these advocates has come into question in view of the present conditions. Large sections of practising advocates depend upon the day-to-day functioning of the courts and tribunals to meet their financial needs and the present uncertainty has jeopardized their only source of income.
“It is therefore necessary to ensure the meaningful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under Articles 21 (right to life) of the Constitution of India to give effective and immediate assistance to them and this court may be pleased to do direct the respondents- authorities to do the needful in this regard,” it said.
It said the government has already taken steps in this regard for giving relief to certain sections of the society including entrepreneurs.
“In the circumstances, it is necessary that appropriate relief is given to the suffering lawyers also,” it said.
The petition said the advocates form essential and integral part of the justice delivery system and it is necessary to look after their well-being.
Therefore, it is in general public interest that the respondents - authorities are directed to make available requisite assistance to the needy advocates in view of the prevailing circumstances,” it said. PTI MNL ABA SJK SA
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI