New Delhi, May 18: The Delhi High Court has held that the “legal services” are “essential” and therefore restriction on the cross-border movement of lawyers due to the nationwide lockdown would amount to denying the litigants their fundamental right to avail legal services.

The lawyers coming from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have not been able to come to Delhi since March 24 after phase 1 of the nationwide lockdown was announced in order to contain the spread of coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“We find that movement of advocates between the said two states and the NCT of Delhi, in such like cases – where the advocates are residing in one or the other state, and working in the NCT of Delhi, should be permitted within reasonable limits, since legal services are essential services,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar said in their order passed May 18, The Indian Express reported.

It observed that the advocates represent their clients in cases to protect and advance their rights including fundamental rights, which may be at stake, and to deny such litigants the right to avail of legal services through their engaged advocates, would be denial of such rights.

“The rights of such advocates to earn their livelihood – which is a facet of the Right to Life and Liberty, and their freedom to carry out the profession, are also at stake. The same cannot be completely denied and can only be regulated with reasonable restrictions.

“We, therefore, expect the State of UP to adopt the same method for issuance of e-passes on weekly basis, as has been evolved by the State of Haryana. The State of UP shall consider these aspects before the next date,” it said. 

The court’s observations and direction came on a PIL by the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) seeking direction to the States of Haryana and UP to allow unhindered movement of advocates. The issue was put before the bench through DHCBA’s President and senior Advocate Mohit Mathur and its Honorary Secretary, advocate Abhijat.

Advocate Anil Grover, representing the State of Haryana, submitted that in “respect of advocates, a separate category has been included for issuance of e-passes on weekly basis, and the e-passes are routinely being issued without any delay, i.e. within a matter of few minutes – up to thirty minutes”.

So far as UP is concerned, advocate Vinod Diwakar submitted that some arrangement has been entered between the Supreme Court Bar Association and the local administration of Ghaziabad and Noida Districts. He seeks some time on behalf of the Sate of UP to take further instructions and report back by the next date of hearing on May 20.

On the DHCBA President’s contention that advocates should be allowed entry and exit in Delhi to the two States on the basis of their Identity Cards alone, the bench observed, “We are not inclined to accept this submission for the reason that, in case at the Border/ Barrier, if the checking authorities find any reason not to accept the Identity Card, the same may lead to a fracas and congestion – which is best avoided in the present situation.”

The bench further said, “The same may lead to slowing down the traffic and also congregation of persons at the Barrier – which cannot be permitted. Since the system of issuance of weekly e-passes is in place and has been made operational, we do not consider it proper to interfere with the same at this stage”.

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