New Delhi, July 7 The Bar Council of India (BCI) has moved a plea in the Supreme Court, seeking a direction to the Centre, states and Union Territories to arrange financial assistance, by way of interest-free loan of up to Rs 3 lakh each, to advocates enrolled with the respective Bar Council.
This loan should be repayable in reasonable monthly installments at least 12 months after normal court functioning commences, it said, adding that it has estimated that almost about 25 per cent to 30 per cent of the enrolled advocates would be in need of immediate financial help.
The BCI filed the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking a direction to provide financial assistance including disbursal of soft loans to financially needy advocates enrolled with the various state Bar Councils in view of unprecedented crisis being faced by a large section of legal practitioners currently. According to the BCI, there are presently about 16 lakh advocates enrolled with the different state Bar Councils in the country.
The BCI cited the Disaster Management Act, which provides for meeting contingencies rising during disaster. "The provisions of the said Act, in particular Section 13, provide for grant of financial relief including loans on concessional terms to persons affected by disaster. 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 lawyers' body argued that a significant section is first-generation lawyers, where no other member of the family is in the legal profession. "These advocates are solely dependent on the regular, though meagre, income they earn from appearing in different courts and various tribunals as well as before the quasi-judicial authorities. This significant section of lawyers has no real savings to fall back on and they are dependent on the regular functioning of the courts and tribunals for their livelihood," argued the plea.
The BCI insisted this section is particularly vulnerable financially, as they are relative beginners in the profession and therefore, their financial position is very precarious. "The prolonged closure of the courts and tribunals all over the country since March, due to the lock-down declared by the government of India and the various state governments to combat Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in depriving majority of the advocates their only source of income. 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 succour," contended the lawyers' body.
( With inputs from IANS )