On Monday, the Bombay High Court issued notice to the Maharashtra and Goa Bar Councils in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking a stipend for junior lawyers. The Bombay High Court’s Division Bench, which included Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik, requested responses by March 14 from the Maharashtra and Goa Bar Councils, the Advocates Welfare Fund Trust Committee, and the State of Maharashtra. Young lawyers Ajit Deshpande, Akshay Desai, and others filed a petition seeking a stipend of ₹5,000 per month.
Advocates Asim Sarode, Ajinkya Udane, Smita Singalkar, Madan Kurhe, and Trunal Tonape filed the PIL. According to the petition, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown have had a significant financial impact on junior lawyers.
In their first few years of training, new lawyers face numerous challenges.
According to the petition, Maharashtra and Goa have around 28,000 junior lawyers. The petition claims that the situation necessitates a broad interpretation and provides assistance to lawyers, citing section 23 of the Maharashtra Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1981, which talks about the discretion given to the Trustee Committee to give financial assistance from the Fund to organise welfare schemes for the indigent, disabled, or other Advocates, who may or may not be members of the fund.
According to the PIL, most Civil and Family Courts have not yet fully operationalized, and most Criminal Courts have granted interim bail to defendants awaiting trial, resulting in a loss of income for lawyers because “in the normal course of things, bail matters are the most time-consuming and are the most important income generators for many lawyers working in Sessions Courts.”
In light of the foregoing, the petition requested that the Bar Council and the State government assist all junior lawyers throughout the state.
Various High Courts across the country, including Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh, have already directed the respective authorities to provide monetary assistance to junior lawyers, according to the petition.
Advocate Sarode argued that the Bar Council has sufficient funds and that they should be used for proper purposes such as stipends for young lawyers.
On March 14, the case will be heard once more.