COVID 19 fallout: BCI requests SC to arrange soft loans for lawyers of up to Rs 3 lakh each

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The pandemic has caused severe financial strain on the legal community of India as well. It was evident through a petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Bar Council of India (BCI), seeking financial assistance, including disbursal of soft loans, to needy advocates enrolled with the various state bar councils. The BCI has requested soft loans of up to Rs 3 lakh per advocate in need.

According to the petition, the BCI estimates that almost 25 to 30 percent of the advocates enrolled would be in need of immediate financial help.

The BCI said that it does not possess the necessary financial resources to help the needy advocates at this hour of crisis though the BCI realises the necessity to come to the aid of the advocates. The petition also states: “The Bar Council of India does not get any subscription money from the advocates periodically. The Bar Council of India receives only a fraction of the one-time enrolment fee paid by the advocates at the time of enrolment and the funds at the command of the Bar Council of India are barely sufficient to meet its regular expenses.”

Some state bar councils have devised financial assistance schemes through loans and advances, but those state bodies have only modest funds, the petition added.

The BCI petition said that advocates keep contributing on a regular basis during the course of their practice, all that ending up in government coffers. In particular, the petition said, advocates generate funds by way court-fee and advocates welfare funds. “The financial contribution made by the legal community is substantial and therefore, it is reasonable to expect the government to extend assistance to advocates in times of grave need like the present one,” the petition said.

Reminding the court that it has always acted as the parens patriae (parent of the nation) of the legal community of the country, the council has sought for a direction to arrange by appropriate means financial assistance in the shape of loan of at least Rs 3 lakhs to each advocate, payable immediately and repayable by the advocate concerned in at least 12 months after the normal functioning of the courts begins in reasonable instalments.

-India Legal Bureau

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