The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Central Government, State Governments, Union Territories, Bar Council of India (BCI) and all the State Bar Councils in suo motu proceedings initiated taking cognisance of the plight and loss of income of lawyers during the pandemic.
The court says it faces an unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic. This would demand an unprecedented action for resolving the said crisis.
“We find that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the lives of citizens and, particularly, the legal fraternity. We are conscious of the fact that the advocates are bound by Rules which restrict their income only to the profession”, says a three-judge bench headed by CJI S A Bobde.
The bench adds lawyers are not permitted to earn a livelihood by any other means. In such a circumstance, the closure of the courts has deprived a sizable section of the legal profession of income and therefore livelihood.
In these dire circumstances, the court says, there is a constant demand to enable the resumption of income from the profession by resuming the normal functioning of courts in the congregation.
This demand, the court writes, poses its own difficulties in the sense that an unqualified resumption of normal Courts may jeopardize the health of all those who attend Courts in the congregation, i.e., Judges, Lawyers and equally important, the Staff of the Courts.
The court, however, says it is not possible to ignore the problem of livelihood of advocates. It has, therefore, issued notice to the recognized Bar Associations of the Supreme Court and of all the High Courts to show cause why a fund for relief to eligible and deserving advocates should not be set up and donations for the same be invited from their own members or any other legitimate source.
Further, it would also be necessary to determine the norms for eligibility of such financial aid by the Bar Associations.
The court has also issued notice to the Registrars General of all the High Courts.
The matter is likely to be heard after two weeks.
Read order here: