NEW DELHI: The Bar Council of India (BCI) Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking financial assistance, including disbursal of soft loans, to the needy advocates during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has crippled judicial functioning.
Courts across country are hearing urgent matters only via video link from last week of March due to the pandemic situation making things difficult for common lawyers.
The petition sought a direction to the Centre as well as all the states to arrange an interest-free loan of upto Rs three lakh each to advocates enrolled with the respective state Bar Councils.
The loan, disbursed through the state bar councils, would be repayable in reasonable monthly instalments at least 12 months after normal court functioning commences, it said.
'In the alternative, direct the Union of India and the respective state government to financially support the needy advocates by depositing the amount directly in their accounts," the BCI, through its chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra, said.
The petition claimed that a significant section of advocates, particularly the younger lawyers, "are in acute need of urgent financial support in the prevailing circumstances brought about by the global pandemic resulting in closure of courts for a long time initially and only partial functioning of the courts since then."
"The very survival of these advocate has come into question in view of the present conditions. Large sections of practicing advocates depend upon the day-to-day functioning of the courts and tribunals to meet their financial needs and the present uncertainly has jeopardized their only source of income.
"It is therefore necessary to ensure the meaningful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under Articles 21 (right to life) of the Constitution of India to give effective and immediate assistance to them and this court may be pleased to do direct the respondents- authorities to do the needful in this regard," it said.
It said the government has already taken steps in this regard for giving relief to certain sections of the society including entrepreneurs.
"In the circumstances, it is necessary that appropriate relief is given to the suffering lawyers also," it said. The petition said the advocates form essential and integral part of the justice delivery system and it is necessary to look after their well-being.
Therefore, it is in general public interest that the respondents - authorities are directed to make available requisite assistance to the needy advocates in view of the prevailing circumstances," it said.