New Delhi, April 30: The Supreme Court Thursday said the Bar Council of India (BCI) may consider an emergency fund for independent practising advocates who are in need of financial assistance and are “facing a tough time” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana, hearing a plea on the matter through video-conferencing, said it cannot pass direction for the creation of funds and set up a special category for lawyers when unfortunately the entire country is facing a difficult situation, NDTV reported.

The bench, also comprising Justices SK Kaul and BR Gavai, observed that some bar councils have taken up this issue and have also decided to help independent lawyers. “This is something for the BCI to consider,” the bench told advocate Pawan Prakash Pathak, who filed the petition. The apex court, while referring to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, said the whole country is suffering and lawyers are also a part of it.

Pawan Prakash Pathak referred to the provision of the Advocates Act and said the BCI is responsible for safeguarding the rights, privileges, and interests of advocates. He said that courts and tribunals are closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown and independent practising lawyers are left with no other source of income. He argued that the top court can direct the BCI to take action in this regard as also for the future.

The bench said however that it is for the BCI to consider as to how well it is in a position to help.

Pawan Prakash Pathak, who filed the plea along with advocate Alok Singh, said that “advocates are also hit by this lockdown and facing financial crunch and if the lockdown further extends then this poses a serious threat to the life and liberty of the advocates who have litigation as there the only source of income.”

The plea has claimed that various state bar associations across the country are coming up with financial aid scheme for advocates but there is “no uniformity or equality” in those policies. It has also sought a direction to the BCI and bar council of states to frame a policy for fund disbursal to independent advocates who are in dire need of financial assistance within the specified time limit.

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