RE: Financial Aid For Members Of Bar Affected By Pandemic
Case No.: Suo Moto WP(C) No. 8/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramaniam
The Supreme Court recently took suo moto cognizance of the case concerning financial difficulties faced by legal practitioners amid the Covid-19 situation. The Hon’ble reiterated that legal professionals cannot earn a livelihood by any other means. Furthermore, the court also issued a notice, which is returnable in two weeks to recognized Bar Associations of the Supreme Court and of all the High Courts to show cause why a fund should not be set up to provide financial aid to eligible and deserving members of the Bar and to invite donations, either from their own members or any other legitimate source. The notice was issued to the Union of India, State Governments/ Union Territories, Bar Council of India, and all the State Bar Council.
BAR COUNCIL OF INDIA RULES
Chapter VII of the Bar Council of India Rules imposes restrictions on Advocates to take up any other employment. Rule 47 provides that an advocate shall not personally engage in any other business, but he may be a sleeping partner in a firm doing business. Rule 48 provides that an advocate may be a Director or Chairman of the Board of Directors of a Company, but his duties should not be of an executive character. An advocate shall not be a Managing Director or Secretary of any Company. Rule 49 provides that an advocate shall not be a full-time salaried employee of any person, government, firm, corporation or concern as long as he continues to practice the legal profession. These rules of not allowing a practising legal professional to engage in any other profession are set on the principle that the legal profession requires full-time attention and should be practised wholeheartedly.
In the case of Haniraj L. Chulani (Dr.) v. Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa, Goa (1996) 3 SCC 349, the Supreme Court laid down that a medical practitioner cannot be enrolled as an advocate. It was laid down that the legal profession is monopolistic in character and expects its member to upkeep and uphold certain high traditions associated with it. It is a full-time profession. Legal practitioners should pay full attention to their profession so that they can fulfil their role as an officer of the court and can give their best in the administration of justice.
URGENT NEED FOR RELIEF
Many lawyers, especially young professionals have no savings. Hence, they are dependent on the functioning of the courts to earn their livelihood. Since courts across the country have stopped hearing of cases after the lockdown was imposed on March 24, they have resorted to virtual hearings only regarding urgent matters. This has resulted in a heavy toll on the legal fraternity since legal practitioners are bound by rules which restrict their source of income. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has also observed that the normal functioning of the courts cannot be resumed as it imposes a threat to the health of judges, lawyers, and the staff of the court.
In this regard, states like Karnataka, Delhi, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra have sanctioned financial assistance to ensure the survival of needy lawyers during the time of this crisis. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has earmarked an amount of Rs. 100 crores for the assistance of advocates, out of which Rs. 25 crores were released to the Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh on July 8. Moreover, the Bar Council of Gujarat has allowed the advocated to engage in alternated jobs until the end of the year. In this regard, advocates are exempted from Section 35 of the Advocates Act till 31st December 2020, which lays down reprimand, suspension, and cancellation of license of advocates for professional misconduct.
This is an unprecedented situation, where legal practitioners are the only community who are facing conflicts of pursuing other sources of livelihood. While it is true that law is a full-time profession, certain relaxations should be given to the advocates when earning a livelihood is difficult.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arushi Gupta is a 5th-year law student at DES Law College, Pune University.
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