The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking directions to the Bar Council of India (BCI) to create financial emergency funds for practicing lawyers who have no means of income in wake of the nationwide lockdown.
Saying that it was the BCI’s prerogative to take a call on providing financial aid, the bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, SK Kaul and BR Gavai disposed off the matter after asking the petitioner to approach the BCI.
“How can we direct creation of funds? We can’t create a special category for layers when unfortunately the whole country is facing a difficult situation. Let the BCI decide”, the Court said.
The Bench further noted that all people were without work, where the whole country is facing a ‘difficult situation’. The Bar Council has a role to play during the pandemic, added the Bench, but the Court cannot create a separate category for lawyers.
“All persons are without work. Architects are without work, others are without work. This is something for the BCI to consider. How can we create a special category for lawyers?”, said Justice Kaul. “BCI has a role to play during this pandemic. If an individual lawyer is in distress they help. This is a disease which affects the country as a whole of which lawyers are a part”, he added.
The petitioner, advocate Pawan Prakash Pathak, appeared in person and highlighted the grievance of independent lawyers who have been left with no source of income. Affixing responsibility on the BCI to look after the well-being of advocates, Pathak submitted that the Top Court could direct Body to take action in furtherance of lawyers’ statutory rights under the Advocates Act 1961.
“We have written to the Bar Councils…BCI has to look after the interests and privileges of the advocates…Lawyers have a statutory right under the Advocates Act. This Court can direct BCI to take action”, he submitted.
The bench, however, disagreed with the submission and reiterated that the petitioner must take their grievance to the BCI.
“We have no funds to give to you. It’s for the bar councils to take action. We cannot tell the bar council…How can this be part of a direction under Article 32? It is for the Bar Council to take a call…approach BCI.”
Certain Bar Councils such as Jharkhand and West Bengal have already taken up this issue. Justice Ramana referred to the same and stated that some Bar Councils have taken up the issue of funding independent lawyers in distress, indicating that the Court had no role to play in the same.