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Bombay HC dismisses plea to exempt Lawyers from COVID-19 Lockdown, says it's for State to decide if Lawyers provide "Essential Services"

"It is within the exclusive domain of the State Legislature to legislate as to whose services to be included into the essential services, keeping in view the paramount interest of the community", the Court ruled.

Meera Emmanuel

The Bombay High Court recently dismissed a plea urging for directions so that lawyers and their staff be exempted from COVID-19 lockdown restrictions for the purpose of court work (Imran Mohd. Salar Shaikh v The State of Maharashtra and ors).

To this end, the plea had also called for categorizing Legal Service Providers as "essential services."

The plea was dismissed by a Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Madhav Jamdar on the ground it was up to the State Government to decide on such issues, as outlined in the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2017.

As stated in their July 10 ruling,

"... it is within the exclusive domain of the State Legislature to legislate as to whose services to be included into the essential services, keeping in view paramount interest of the community."
Bombay High Court

The Court further elaborated

"In our considered view, no mandatory directions, much less directions, can be issued to the State Legislature to include the legal services rendered by the advocates into 'essential service'. The directions as sought by the Petitioner cannot be issued to the State Legislature to legislate in a particular manner, and it is for the State Legislature to take an appropriate decision."

The State, however, told the Court that they were willing to consider the grievances raised by the petitioner. In response, it was submitted that the petitioner would file a comprehensive representation to the State Government on the issue.

The Court, in turn, recorded that if such a representation is filed, the State is free to consider the same and take a decision in accordance with the law.

"In case, such a representation, as submitted by the learned counsel appearing for the Petitioner, is filed by the Petitioner with the Respondents, the Respondents are free to consider the said representation in accordance with law and rejection of the present Writ Petition shall not be construed as an impediment to consider such representation", the order states.

Whereas a plea had also been made for directions to revoke a challan issued against the petitioner for an alleged violation of lockdown rules, the Court declined to issue any order on the same, pointing out that the petitioner has an alternate efficacious remedy to claim this relief.

Read the order:

Imran Mohd. Salar Shaikh v The State of Maharashtra and ors - Order.pdf
Preview

On a related note, on July 7 another Bench of the High Court issued notice in a plea seeking a declaration of legal services as essential for the purpose of travel in Mumbai local trains that are allowed to run for the commute of essential services workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This petition is due to be taken up next on July 21.

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