GUWAHATI, Aug 12 - The condition of almost all practising lawyers in the NE States has become miserable due to the shutdown of physical court activities under the COVID-19-related lockdown since the latter part of March last. The courts are operating only virtually all over the country and this has made the majority of the lawyers, who are to earn their livelihood on day-to-day basis, face unprecedented penury. They now demand the immediate resumption of the proceedings of the physical courts and the opening of the offices of the bar associations.
Lawyers in the country have no social security. Under the present situation, it is estimated that only 10 to 15 per cent of the lawyers are perhaps in a position to survive and subsist without any earnings. Many young lawyers are finding it exceedingly difficult to make both ends meet. Families of many lawyers are facing starvation and it is feared that a huge number of lawyers� families will follow the suit, said chairman of the Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim (BCANMAS) Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury.
Faced with this situation, the BCANMAS has been pleading with the Governments of these five NE states to come forward in aid of the suffering lawyers. It is expected that in a welfare State like ours, the government would come forward to the rescue of the distressed lot of their citizens. But till now, said Choudhury, there is no response received from any of the Governments of these states.
Under such a situation, the BCANMAS decided on August 10, to hold a one-hour sit-in-demonstration from 11.30 am of August 13, maintaining all the protocols connected with COVID-19 management, in front of all the courts of these NE states. The lawyers of these NE states will demand resumption of physical court proceedings and opening of the offices of the bar associations that day, Choudhury said.
The BCANMAS is a statutory body functioning under the Advocates Act, 1961 and the Bar Council of India Rules. At present, 35,000 advocates are enrolled under it in all the above states. Of them, there are around 23,000 practising lawyers, of them 19,000 belong to Assam.
Here it is pertinent to mention that the Bar Council of India has also moved the Prime Minister of the country, the Chief Ministers of the States to provide financial assistance of at least Rs 20,000 per month to the needy lawyers, as subsistence allowance from the individual funds of the Union and the State Governments or jointly by the Central and State Governments. These amounts could be directly paid or paid through the Advocate Welfare Fund of the respective Bar Council of the states. In this respect, the Bar Council of India also reminded the Prime Minister of the fact that the lawyers are amongst the highest taxpayers of the country.