Work out plan for financial help to indigent lawyers during COVID: HC to BCD, advocates trust

New Delhi, Jun 24 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) and the Advocates Welfare Trust to work out a plan to provide some economic relief to their members who have been financially hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suggestion by the high court came while hearing a plea seeking ex-gratia payment of Rs 25,000 to each member of the trust who is suffering financially in the wake of coronavirus.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said a writ cannot be issued directing someone to do charity and asked the trust and BCD to consider the petition as a 'request for charity'.

'These are your own members. Explore possibility of what can be done. Look at setting a criteria for providing ex-gratia,' the high court said and added 'consider the requirements of medical facilities as well as livelihood'.

The bench asked both the trust and BCD to file a report highlighting what they have done till now and what they intend to do in coming future and listed the matter on July 7 for further hearing.

Senior advocate Sanjay Jain, appearing for the trust, said that it has limited funds which are not getting augmented during the COVID-19 pandemic due to limited purchase of its stamps in the present circumstances and fewer contribution from lawyers.

He said the trust does not get funds from the state or central government and therefore, its fund cannot be disbursed for providing ex-gratia of Rs 25,000 to each member.

Jain also said that soon applications for reimbursement of medical expenses for treatment of COVID-19 would come and funds would be required for that.

The petitioner, Vaibhav Sharma, has urged the trust to take a beneficial view in the prevailing circumstances as there are many lawyers who are unable to make ends meet.

Sharma's lawyer also prayed that the trust be asked to declare COVID-19 as a natural calamity and to provide financial assistance to the indigent advocates.

Advocate K C Mittal, appearing for BCD, said it was already doing its bit and has disbursed around eight crores to around 16,000 advocates.

He said senior lawyers have been asked to contribute and funds have been diverted from other infrastructure projects to provide relief to lawyers. PTI HMP SKV RKS RKS RKS