SC takes up cause of lawyers in dire straits

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The Supreme Court today (July 22) decided to take up the issue of helping lawyers who have fallen on hard time, because of the COVID pandemic, as courts remain physically closed. The court has taken suo motu cognizance of the financial difficulty faced by the lawyers and issued notice on a plea filed by the Bar Council of India (BCI). The plea seeks financial assistance, including disbursal of soft loans, to financially needy advocates enrolled with the various State Bar Councils.

The bench, led by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, observed that the entire world is faced with an unprecedented crisis which needs an unprecedented solution. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on lives of citizens and especially lawyers.

The bench also observed: “We are conscious of the fact that the legal fraternity is bound by rules to restrict its income only to the profession and is not entitled to earn a livelihood by any other means. Closure of courts has impacted a sizeable portion of the legal profession and has, thus, affected livelihoods and incomes… This is a dire situation. There is a constant demand to resume normal functioning of the courts.

This demand is difficult to accede to, as it jeopardizes the heath of all those who attend courts in congregation, including judges and lawyers. Medical advice is to not start resumption of court immediately.”

The Court, however, took note that it is not possible to ignore the livelihoods of lawyers and issued notice to all bar associations across India to showcase as to why a fund for relief for deserving and eligible advocates is not set up and invite donation from own members or other legitimate sources.

The bench issued notice to the Central government, BCI, State Bar Councils, Registrar General of each High Court and the High Court Bar Associations.

The petition, filed by the BCI, has pointed out that there is no scheme applicable country-wide to provide financial assistance to needy advocates and, according to the estimate of the BCI, about 25 to 30 percent of the advocates enrolled would be in need of immediate financial help. 

The Suo Motu cognizance will be taken up with the BCI plea. Both the petitions have been tagged together and are to be heard after two weeks.

– India Legal Bureau

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