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[COVID-19] Allahabad HC directs BCI to release funds; directs Bar Council of UP to frame a scheme to disburse assistance in the meantime

Aditi Singh

In order to facilitate schemes to help needy advocates during the COVID-19 crisis, the Allahabad High Court has directed the Bar Council of India to release the funds allocated to the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh on or before April 27, 2020. (In Re - Assistance To The Needy Advocates And Registered Advocate Clerks)

In the meantime, the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh has been directed to frame a scheme to disburse assistance through the court attached Bar Associations.

Additionally, the Court has also directed the Trustees Committee constituted under the Uttar Pradesh Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1974 to meet at the earliest to have a scheme to provide assistance and to subsequently, release the fund to all the court attached recognized Bar Associations in the State of Uttar Pradesh with specific direction to the Associations to further disburse the aid to members.

The Trustees Committee is further directed to consider and decide all the applications pending before it for disbursement of aid to the widows of Advocates and also to the other claimants, within a period of one month from today.

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Siddhartha Varma in a suo moto writ petition concerning the programmes adopted and enforced by the Bar Councils and Bar Associations for the welfare of their members during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The PIL was heard through video conferencing with seven open windows from 7 different stations, out of which five were at Prayagraj (Allahabad) and one each at New Delhi and Lucknow.

On the last date of hearing, the Court was informed that sufficient funds were available for their distribution amongst advocates in times of need.

The Bar Council of India stated that it had decided to provide financial assistance to each and every State Bar Councils in proportion to their strength of Advocates, subject to maximum grant of Rs.1 crore.

The Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh assured the Court that it would not step behind in providing financial aid to the needy Advocates enrolled with it. However, the Trustees Committee created under the the Uttar Pradesh Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1974 had not taken adequate steps in this regard, it was submitted.

Awadh Bar Association informed the Court that it had a fund of about Rs 15 lakhs in its hand and a scheme had been floated for disbursement of financial aid to the Advocates.

The Allahabad High Court Bar Association, which was represented by its Elders Committee, expressed its commitment to assist the needy Advocates as well as the registered Advocate Clerks, but pointed out certain practical difficulties in accomplishing the task.

Amongst other things, it suggested that a monitoring cell be constititiuted for the implementation of a scheme.

After hearing the parties, the Court observed that it failed to understand as to why the Trustees Committee had not met and was not settling claims of its members expeditiously.

In our considered opinion, the delay in deciding claims by the Trustees Committee is quite serious and virtually that frustrates the very purpose creating a statutory fund. The Committee is a custodian of a charitable trust and that should have acted upon with all diligence on receiving the request for disbursement of assistance to the members of the fund or their heir. As a matter of fact main financial source of the fund is day to day assistance given by the Advocates. The fund is meant to support its members as and when occasion arises with lightening speed.
Allahabad High Court

The Court also emphasized on the need of assistance that might be extended to the registered Advocate Clerks.

True it is, Advocate Clerks are not in employment of the Court, but utility of their functioning in Court office is well established and well recognized. The service rendered by the Advocate Clerks is not a service to an individual but to the system by a class of professionals attached with Advocates..Though that is an issue within the domain of the State legislature, we are of the view that there must be some statutory provisions to regulate service conditions of the registered Advocates' Clerks.
Allahabad High Court

In view of the above, the Court passed a slew of directions to BCI and others to facilitate the assistance to Advocates.

The Court has also directed the Awadh Bar Association, Lucknow to make best efforts to execute its scheme at earliest as far as possible within a period of one week from today.

Pursuant to the suggestion put forth by the Allahabad High Court Bar Association, the Court constituted a Monitoring Committee which would act as an interlocutory body to operate the accounts of the Association for the purpose of grant of aid to its members.

The Committee shall consist of the following:

- Rakesh Pande, Senior Advocate and President, Allahabad High Court Bar Association.

- Amrendra Nath Singh, Senior Advocate and designated President, Allahabad High Court Bar Association.

- JB Singh, Advocate and General Secretary, Allahabad High Court Bar Association.

- Prabha Shankar Mishra, Advocate and designated General Secretary, Allahabad High Court Bar Association.

- VP Srivastava, Senior Advocate, Allahabad.

- Vikash Chandra Tripathi, Chief Standing Counsel,Allahabad.

As per the order, the Monitoring Committee shall frame a complete scheme for disbursement of aid to the needy members of the Allahabad High Court Bar Association.

To extend some relief to clerks, the Court directed the Registrar General to initiate the process of registering Advocate Clerks in accordance with the Allahabad High Court Advocates Clerks (Registration of Advocates Clerks) Rules, 1997.

The Court has also requested the State Government to examine the viability to have an enactment for welfare of the registered Advocate Clerks working in different courts in the State of Uttar Pradesh.

A request is also made to all the designated Senior Advocates and the Advocates in the State of Uttar Pradesh, who have adequate resources, to assist the Bar Associations to which they are members for extending a helping hand to the Advocate Clerks.

The matter would be heard next on May 5.

Read the Order:

Assistance To The Needy Advocates And Registered Advocate Clerks - Order April 20.pdf
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