A report stating a roadmap to address the financial hardship faced by advocates due to COVID19 has been asked by the Delhi High Court to the Advocates Welfare Fund Trust and Bar Council of Delhi.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice PrateekJalan requested both the Welfare Fund and the BCD to consult various stakeholders and Senior Advocates and try to mutually reach a decision to resolve this issue as the writ of mandamus cannot be issued to a Trust for doing charity.
The order had come in a plea for financial hardship where ex gratia payment of ?25,000 to each member of the Advocates Welfare Fund who has suffered financial hardship due to COVID19 be provided.
After due verification, the amount should be given to only those advocates who make a representation before the Trust Committee of the concerned Fund, mentioned the petition.
Senior Advocate Hariharan who appeared for the Petitioner, submitted that Section 24 of the Advocates Welfare Fund Act is broad enough to cover cases arising of COVID19 and argued that ‘Clause (e) of the said section should be benevolently interpreted by the Trust Committee to provide relief to advocates who are suffering from this hardship.’
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Submission were made further that the Trust Committee for financial hardship and should declare COVID19 as a natural calamity and help lawyers who do not have enough to make ends meet.
Mr Hariharan also contendedthat there is a huge corpus of Fund which is lying utilisedand the Bar Council should be called upon to formulate a scheme in this regard under Rule 44 of the Bar Council Rules.
ASG Sanjay Jain on behalf of the fund, submitted that under Section 19 of the Act to provide compensation to those who are already enrolled with the Fund as the Trust Committee is willing to consider cases of COVID19 as ‘medical needs’.
Points were made by Mr. Jain that under Section 19ex gratia compensation can’t be granted as exgratia compensation is only given in the cases of expenditure incurred in receiving medical treatment.
Submissions were made by Mr. Jain that ‘We’re willing to accept representations regarding COVID19 ailments and decide upon the same within a fortnight. We won’t sit on them. However, ex gratia payments can’t be made.’
The court was informed that there’s a limited fund which can only be utilised for compensating medical expenses by the ASG.
‘There might be so many COVID patients who will apply for this Fund. We can’t give money for any other purpose’, submitted Mr. Jain.
Mr KC Mittal appearing for Bar Council of Delhi submitted that the Council has already disbursed 8 crores under 16,000 applications for the benefit of the advocates and pointed out that due to the financial crunch, the Council is diverting money from building fund and library fund. Moreover, the Council is constantly getting in touch with the lawyers who are admitted in hospitals due to COVID19.
Submissions were made by Mr. Mittal that ‘4 advocates have already died of COVID19. We at BCD would like to have a COVID19 helpline to assist the suffering advocates from the beginning.’