The Bench of CJI Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had earlier noted that all the High Court Bar Associations have suggested that the Centre develop a contingency fund from which interest-free loans can be given to struggling lawyers.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has directed the transfer of all pending petitions concerning financial assistance for lawyers affected during the COVID-19 lockdown to the Supreme Court.

Earlier, while hearing the suo motu case on providing financial aid to lawyers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court had wondered how “real, deserving, and unfortunate” lawyers could be identified so as to avail any financial aid scheme.

CJI Bobde today noted that the Madras High Court had disposed of a plea pending before it on the issue, adding that an office report also indicates this.

However, the Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairman, Advocate Manan Mishra accused Dr AE Chelliah (the petitioner before the Madras High Court) of “misleading the court.”

“In the Madras High Court hearing, BCI was made a party. What kind of order is this from High Court that Bar Council has to provide audit and accounts to High Court on the instance of this plea seeking (Rs) 25,000 for clerks of lawyers? He is misleading by saying case is decided.”
said Mishra
The Supreme Court has now directed that the case pending in the Madras High Court also be transferred to the Supreme Court.

When Dr AE Chelliah resisted the transfer, CJI said,

“If it is disposed, High Court will inform us. If it’s not, High Court will tell us, why are you coming in the way Dr AE Chelliah?”

Financial aid for lawyers amid COVID-19: Supreme Court transfers pleas pending in High Courts to itself
If a lawyer has no income, can interest-free loans during COVID-19 be a boon? Supreme Court ponders in suo motu case on financial aid
The Bench of CJI Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had earlier noted that all the High Court Bar Associations have suggested that the Centre develop a contingency fund from which interest-free loans can be given to struggling lawyers.

CJI Bobde had earlier observed that:

“If an advocate has been making certain amount of income and due to pandemic it has become zero, then I can understand. But a lawyer who made no money, can this help become a source of income? The pandemic cannot become a boon for them. We have to be careful.”

The Bench further noted that “the power structure” would lead to the exclusion of the real, deserving lawyers. While asking Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade to help the Bench in identifying such members, CJI Bobde said,

“The important thing is to identify lawyers who are entitled to such help. The really deserving ones may not get the help due to the power structure and here most powerful gets most of the benefits. The unfortunate ones don’t get it.”

Financial aid for lawyers amid COVID-19: Supreme Court transfers pleas pending in High Courts to itself
Financial assistance for lawyers amid COVID-19: Supreme Court acknowledges “dire situation”; issues notice in suo motu matter, BCI plea
It was also observed that though the Centre has been asked to set up a contingency fund for lawyers in order to disburse these loans, it was indeed the duty of the bar associations to fund the deprived lawyers. The Court said,

“We find the response of all these associations inadequate. You are connected to society and to rich business houses. It’s a difficult situation and what we say is only for COVID-19. We have asked the Centre but should not the major part of the funding be from bar associations? We feel primary responsibility is of the association of advocates. Centre has to spend on a lot of people.”

Senior Advocate Ajit Kumar had earlier stated that though some of the States created such a fund, they were facing a shortage now, as those funds have supported lawyers for over eight months.

On July 22, while hearing a petitions seeking interest-free loans for lawyers reeling under the financial difficulties caused by COVID-19, the Court had issued notice in the plea. Notice was also issued to the Registrar General of each High Court.

While taking suo motu notice of the situation, the Court had stated,

“We are faced with an unprecedented crisis that needs an unprecedented solution. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on lives of citizens and especially lawyers. We are conscious of the fact that the legal fraternity is bound by rules to restrict income only to profession and are not entitled to earn a livelihood by any other means. Closure of courts has impacted a sizeable portion of legal profession and thus affected livelihood and income. This is a dire situation.”

Supreme Court of IndiaBar Council of IndiaLawyersfinancial assistanceinterest

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