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The petitioners stated that the state govt had issued an order in 2018 which sanctioned a grant of Rs. 5,000 monthly for lawyers with less than three years practice at the Bar and an annual income of less than Rs.1 lakh.
The Kerala High Court today questioned the Bar Council of Kerala over the delay in implementing the Kerala government's 2018 order that had sanctioned a monthly stipend of Rs 5,000 to young lawyers in the State. (Adv. Dheeraj Ravi and ors. v. State of Kerala and ors.)
The petitioners' counsel Manu Ramachandran today pointed out that the Kerala government had issued an order in 2018 which sanctioned grant of Rs. 5,000 as monthly pension for lawyers with less than three years practice at the Bar and annual income of less than Rs. 1 lakh.
However, even after 2 years, nothing to this effect had been done by the Kerala Bar Council, Ramachandran contended.
Noting this, a Single Judge comprising of Justice Gopinath P orally observed,
"The government order was issued in 2018. We are in 2020 now... Lawyers can't be made to starve."
Kerala High Court
The standing counsel appearing for the Kerala Bar Council informed the Court that they were in the process of framing the relevant rules for sanctioning the stipend for young lawyers.
Further, it was added that the rules framed by them were sent back by the Government of Kerala. The Court was alse told that a statement would be filed by the Bar Council of Kerala on the next date of hearing.
At this juncture, Ramachandran further urged the Court to pass an interim order until the Bar Council frames the relevant rules. However, the Kerala High Court refused to do so. "Let him [counsel appearing for BCK] get instructions on the next date of hearing,", the Court stated.
The High Court also made it clear that no further extension of time would be granted to the Bar Council for filing their statement.
The matter has been next posted for hearing next on May 18.
The petition filed on the issue highlights that no steps have been taken by the Bar Council of Kerala to implement the 2018 government order till date. The petition states,
".. the absence of any stipulation or even prescribed form to apply for the payment of stipend even after more than 2 years of Ext.P2 G.O is nothing but lethargy and arbitrariness on the part of 2nd respondent (Kerala Bar Council) and the same is attributable to respondents 3 to 5 also."
Petition seeking financial assistance for junior lawyers
The plea also points out that certain petitioners had approached Bar Council on several occasions seeking application forms, other procedures and guidance to apply for the monthly stipend pursuant to government order.
However, Bar Council is stated to have asked them to wait till their own Rules and procedure were formulated. Therefore, the petitioners as well as several junior lawyers are left without the benefit of government order till date, the plea states.
The plea further submits that in the light of the COVID-19 lockdown and the closure of Courts, the fraternity of lawyers in India have suffered much, like any other income groups of the society.
The junior lawyers, who are already dependent upon various circumstances and financially vulnerable even before lock-down were the worst affected among the lawyers, the petitioner contends.
Although several measures were declared to help the financially suffering lawyers pursuant to the pressure exerted from various corners, the intended benefit has not reached the lawyers due to the narrow compass of eligibility prescribed therein, the petitioner says.
Therefore, the plea urges the High Court issue directions for ensuring the implementation of the 2018 Kerala Government order in its letter and spirit, within a fixed time frame.
This apart, the plea also prays that the Kerala Bar Council consider and pass orders on all applications seeking monthly stipend, that have complied with the terms of the 2018 Kerala Government order.