New Delhi, April 28: A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a uniform national scheme for granting financial assistance to lawyers across the country in the wake of nation-wide lock down amid COVID-19 crisis.

The petition filed by advocate Abhinav Ramkrishna has sought directions to prepare a “uniform national level scheme” under Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act 2001 to deal with the situation like corona virus pandemic, PTI reported.

It has sought to know whether or not the decision of the various State Bar Councils to extend a paltry sum as one-time payment for loss of work and income to the lawyers for sustenance, can be termed as dignified treatment and  violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

The plea alleged that the Ministry of Law & Legal Affairs, which is primarily responsible for the effective establishment of the judicial setup in the country, has remained a “mute spectator” over the trouble being faced by the lawyers and till date it has not taken any action.

“Preventive measures though are necessary and also need of an hour, yet at same time the respondents cannot be expected to be in a state of deep slumber or be insensitive towards the economic and mental hardship faced by lawyers, except few upon who have achieved a milestone by dint of their hard work and acumen,” the plea said.

The petitioner contended that lawyers across the nation have been paying welfare amount upon filing of the vakalatnama each time they enter appearance and in the unprecedented situation like the present one, it is incumbent upon all the State Bar Councils to come clean with the amount of funds they have in the welfare account.

It has also questioned the decision of Bar Councils in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Kerala to provide “one-time financial assistance” to daily earning lawyers saying it will not serve the purpose of providing a dignified life to them.

The plea referred to Karnataka State Bar Council decision to grant an interest free loan of Rs.10,000 to an advocate subject to availability of funds and said it was against Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act.

“Once an amount is said to be have been disbursed under a welfare scheme during the time national crisis, giving the same a colour of debt/loan is not only against the objective of any welfare act, but the same is like ensuing an insult upon a needy lawyer,” the plea said.

The petition said that since the bodies like Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils are the creation of the statute, therefore the petition in form of PIL is maintainable.

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