Plea in Supreme Court for making a uniform policy for providing financial aid to lawyers in the time of emergency

Team SoOLEGAL 28 Apr 2020 4:25pm

Plea in Supreme Court for making a uniform policy for providing financial aid to lawyers in the time of emergency

A PIL has been brought before the Supreme Court to seek a uniform policy for providing financial assistance to lawyers in times of emergency, such as the current outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and others in the future.

The petition was filed by the Advocate and Executive Director of the Supreme Court Advocate on the Record Association, Mr. Abhinav Ramkrishna, who pointed out that lawyers across the nation paid a welfare sum after filing Vakalatnama at each appearance. Thus, in this extraordinary situation, it is the responsibility of all the State Bar Councils to come clean with the amount of money they have in the welfare account.

Through his petition, Advocate Ramkrishna drew court's attention to various welfare schemes for providing financial assistance to suffering lawyers, which were declared by the Bar Councils of various States. He pointed out that such programs, which are highly flexible in nature, lay down certain classifications for the extension of financial assistance, such as rules relating to years of service, age and the non-extension of benefits to those liable for income tax.

With the exception of these conditions, the petitioner urged the court to order the central government to prepare a "Uniform National Level Scheme" under the Advocates' Welfare Fund Act 2001, with a view to dealing with the current situation and similar situations if they occur in the future. 

Bar Councils in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Kerala have declared that they would offer "one-time financial assistance" to daily earning lawyers. Impeding these provisions, the petitioner argued that the same would not serve the purpose of ensuring a dignified life for the lawyers in distress and their families. 

Noting that the Bar Council of Gujarat has agreed to extend financial assistance to only lawyers who are not tax assessors of income tax, the petitioner has argued that no lawyer can be deprived of welfare for the reason that he / she is taxable for income tax purposes.

Citing the example of the Maharashtra & Goa Bar Council, the petitioner has argued that the classification of providing financial assistance only to lawyers with a standing practice of less than 10 years is not based on any reasonableness and the same is discriminatory against those who have a standing practice of more than 10 years and are not yet in a sound economic position.

The Karnataka State Bar Council has agreed to offer an "interest-free loan" of Rs.10,000/-to Advocates in need. 

Among other things, the petitioner also asked the court to decide whether the Bihar & Jharkhand State Bar Council had run away from their legal and statutory duties towards lawyers in the light of the fact no scheme has been announced by them yet.

On the question of maintainability, the Petitioner argued that, because the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils constitute a statute and fall under the category of "other authorities" within the scope of Article 12 of the Constitution, they are therefore entitled to exercise jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Tagged: Supreme Court   financial aid   lawyers   emergency   COVID-19   pandemic   income tax  
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