Lawyers at the Supreme Court campus
Lawyers at the Supreme Court campus

Financial assistance for lawyers amid COVID-19: Supreme Court acknowledges "dire situation"; issues notice in suo motu matter, BCI plea

The BCI plea urges the Court for directions to government authorities to disburse loans of upto Rs 3 lakh to lawyers facing the brunt of the closure of courts.

Debayan Roy

After taking up the issue of financial assistance for lawyers amid the COVID-19 pandemic suo motu, the Supreme Court today issued notice to the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the Central government in the matter.

A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde also issued notice in the plea filed by the BCI drawing attention to the "precarious financial position" of lawyers due to the closure of courts amid the COVID-19 pandemic (Bar Council of India v. Union of India & anr).

Notice has also been issued to the Registrar General of each High Court.

Taking note of the situation, the Court noted in its order,

"We are faced with an unprecedented crisis which needs an unprecedent solution. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on lives of citizens and especially lawyers. We are conscious of the fact that the legal fraternity is bound by rules to restrict income only to profession and are not entitled to earn a livelihood by any other means. Closure of courts has impacted a sizeable portion of legal profession and thus affected livelihood and income. This is a dire situation."

Supreme Court

The Court also addressed calls by lawyers' bodies for the re-opening of courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. It stated,

"There is a constant demand to resume normal functioning of the courts. This demand is difficult as it jeopardizes the heath of all those who attend court in congregation including judges and lawyers...medical advice is to not start resumption of court immediately. Nonetheless, it is not possible to ignore livelihood of lawyers…"

The Bench thus issued notice in the matters. The order reads,

"...we therefore issue notice to all Bar Associations across India to showcase...why a fund for relief for deserving and eligible advocates is not set up and invite donation from own members or other legitimate source. We issue notice to Bar Council of India and Centre in our suo motu case. Notice also to Registrar General of each High Court."

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news