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A PIL has been moved in the Supreme Court urging that directions be issued so that advocates are exempted from paying rent for their professional premises during the COVID-19 lockdown.
In this regard, the petitioner also prays that the Court directs that the national lockdown be treated as ‘Force Majeure’ period, thereby exempting advocates from paying rent during this period.
The petition filed by Advocate Aljo K Joseph highlights that due to the COVID-19 lockdown and the closure of courts, lawyers have been unable to practice their profession and earn the livelihood.
In such circumstances, it is pointed out that it will not be easy for any professional to pay their rent for leased premises during the lockdown.
While the Government has formulated beneficial schemes for labourers, students and other suppressed classes, the petitioner submits that the hardships faced by lawyers have not been given due attention.
In this regard, it is noted that the Bar Council of Delhi had also written to the Delhi High Court, requesting for a waiver of rent for premises being used for professional purposes. However, no action has been taken on the request, it is stated. In this backdrop, grievance is raised that,
"In the absence of any relief or clarity by the Government, the petitioner and other similarly placed advocates and other professionals are left with no other option but to perform the obligation to pay lease rentals under commercial lease agreements, even when they don’t work at all."
In this backdrop, the petitioner has made the following prayers so that lawyers are exempted from paying rent during the lockdown for premises leased for their professional purposes, i.e.:
The Government should be directed to formulate an appropriate scheme to support the Advocates and other professionals of the country for paying their rent exclusively for the professional premises which is used for practice or office purpose; and
A direction may be issued that the national lockdown period will be treated as ‘Force Majeure’ period henceforth, and that all advocates are exempted from paying rent during this period; and
A direction may be issued that lawyers are exempted from making monthly rental payments for the premises leased out for professional purpose or office purpose during the lockdown.
The petition has been filed through Advocate Sachin Sharma and drawn by Advocates Sachin Sharma and Sriram Parakkat.