GUWAHATI, Aug 19 - Roughly between 60 to 70 per cent of the around 21,000 practising lawyers of the five NE states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim have been severely hit by the COVID-19-induced lockdown and around 2,700 of them have moved the statutory Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim (BCANMAS) seeking financial help. Of them 2,500 belong to Assam and the rest to the other four NE states.
It is worth mentioning here that majority of the around 16 lakh lawyers of the country earn their livelihood by practising in the lower courts and they are dependent on the day-to-day physical proceedings of these courts. Due to the closure of the physical proceedings of the courts due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the livelihood of these lawyers has been severely affected, making their condition miserable. Many of them have now approached their respective Bars, seeking financial assistance.
Chairman of the BCANMAS Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury told this correspondent that in the meantime, around Rs 1 crore has been disbursed by the BCANMAS among the 2,000 eligible needy lawyers of these five NE states, as a one-time assistance of Rs 5,000 per head, under the BCANMAS COVID-19 Financial Assistance Scheme. The rest of the applications are under scrutiny.
It needs mention here that on August 13, responding to the call of the BCANMAS, lawyers of these states held one-hour sit-in demonstration in front of the courts of the four states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, demanding early resumption of the physical proceedings of the courts and opening of the Bar Association offices.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council of India, the BCANMAS and the Bar Councils of the respective states have made representations to the union as well as the respective state Governments, requesting financial assistance to the needy lawyers under the Disaster Management Act or from the Contingency Funds. The BCANMAS in its memorandum to the Union Government pleaded for bringing the lawyers under the ambit of the Disaster Management Act and to provide the needy lawyers loans on concessional rate under Section 13 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It has also pleaded for providing financial assistance to the needy lawyers under Article 267 of the Indian Constitution.
The Bar Council of India, on behalf of all the State Bar Councils, filed a Writ Petition (Civil) (No 686/2020) in the Supreme Court of India praying for a direction to the Government to disburse interest-free loan up to Rs 3 lakh per head to the needy lawyers, to provide financial assistance to the needy lawyers all over the country and to allow resumption of the physical proceedings of the courts instead of the virtual ones.
The Supreme Court has also taken up a suo motu Writ Petition (Civil; No 8/2020) on the matter of providing financial assistance to the needy lawyers.
The Gauhati High Court has by this time constituted a five-judge committee, comprising Justices Manash Ranjan Pathak, Michael Zothankhuma, Kalyan Rai Surana, Prasanta Kumar Deka and Manish Choudhury, to look into the issue of resumption of the physical proceedings of the courts. The committee held a meeting with the BCANMAS, All Assam Lawyers� Association, Gauhati High Court Bar Association and Lawyers� Association, Guwahati on August 17. The committee will inform the stakeholders its decision on the issue within a week, said Choudhury.
Garo body to intensify stir for separate council
Goalpara, Aug 19 - The United Garo Autonomous Council Movement Committee (UGACMC), which has been demanding a separate Garo Autonomous Council (GAC) for the Garos living in both the districts of Kamrup and Goalpara has said that it will organise a mass public rally by breaking all COVID-19 protocols within 15 days in Goalpara district from the date of submission of a memorandum to the government of Assam demanding the creation of a separate GAC for the Garo people.
Addressing a press conference here at the conference hall of the Goalpara District Journalists� Association on Tuesday, Chairman, AGACMC Alex K Sangma said that the earlier Congress government and now the present BJP government have failed to recognise the long-standing demand of the Garo people who have been living for ages in the villages of Kamrup and Goalpara districts situated along the Assam-Meghalaya border.
Sangma informed that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assured the UGACMC delegation�during a meeting on�December 4, 2018 to take up the matter for discussion at the Cabinet meeting after the submission of the population survey of the Garo people living in Assam to the Government.�
Meanwhile, Sangma further informed that the UGACMC adhering to all the rules and regulations and within a definite time submitted the comprehensive population survey of the Garo people living in Assam but to their dismay their demands for a separate GAC in the interest on the development of the Garo people of Assam has been overlooked and their demands went to the backburner even though three new namely Matak, Moran and Kamatapur autonomous councils were created recently by the present BJP government have disheartened the people of the Garo community of Assam. Following this the Garo people have decided to step up their agitation programme for the demand of a separate autonomous council, the chairman added.