The Delhi High Court has appealed to the senior advocates to ensure that the stipend that is paid to their juniors is enough to evade the financial stress that accompanies the profession and allows them to lead a more dignified life.
The petitioner, who is 29 years of age, is a young advocate, who has enrolled himself in the Bar Council of Delhi and cleared the AIBE Examination in the year 2021. He is presently working as a junior in the chambers of a Senior Advocate.
The Petitioner by way of the instant Public Interest Litigation highlighted the difficulties being faced by newly enrolled advocates who are finding themselves in a position where they cannot sustain themselves in Delhi.
The young advocates are unable to arrange for their accommodation, food, travelling and other expenses, and without there being any proper and consistent source of income, they are unable to make both ends meet.
The petitioner contended that Bar Council of India has issued a notification granting a minimum stipend for a sum of Rs.5,000 to all the young advocates for the initial three years of their practice. Many junior advocates are not paid anything by their seniors owing to which they are unable to concentrate on the profession. It is also stated that a survey conducted by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy demonstrates that more than 79% of the Advocates across 7 High Courts with less than two years of legal practice at the Bar are earning less than Rs.10,000 per month.
The petitioner by way of the Public Interest Litigation further highlights the unavailability of space for newly enrolled Advocates where they can sit and entertain clients.
It was stated that there are no rules to accommodate the newly enrolled Advocates in the chambers.
The petitioner relied upon a similar Public Interest Litigation filed in the High Court of Bombay seeking a permanent stipend scheme for junior lawyers with an annual income of less than Rs. 1 lakh for the first three years of their practice and states that the High Court of Bombay has issued notices to the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa. It is further stated that the High Court of Chhattisgarh and the High Court of Allahabad have also issued notices in similar Public Interest Litigations filed on the very same issue.
The petitioner also relies upon the decision of the Government of Kerala wherein sanction was accorded to pay a monthly stipend of a sum of Rs.5,000/- per month to junior lawyers of a specified category, payable out of the Welfare Fund created under KeralaAdvocates’ Welfare Fund Act, 1980.
Whether the Court can issue a writ of mandamus to the Bar Council of Delhi and Bar Council of India to make provisions for payment of a stipend to young law graduates who have just enrolled themselves at the Bar as Advocates.
The division bench of Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad observed that this is indeed a sorry state of affairs of a noble profession whose dynamics end up excluding those with less financial resources as compared to their privileged counter parts.
The court noted that unfortunately, young professionals in all fields, be it from Medicine, Chartered Accountancy, Architecture and Engineering etc., face problems that are similar to the ones being faced by young advocates. Job opportunities are scarce and persons competing for these limited job opportunities are far too many which makes the competition arduous and the services of an individual dispensable.
The Court while exercising its writ jurisdiction cannot single out the legal profession alone and hold that only young advocates have the right to claim a stipend. It is well settled that a writ can lie only for the enforcement of the right established by law and Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be stretched to encompass in itself a right of an Advocate to claim a monthly stipend from Bar Associations.
“With regard to space in chambers for working, every Bar Association/ Court has rules for allotment of chambers, which is usually done on the basis of seniority. There are Advocates, with 10 to 15 years of standing at the Bar, who are unable to secure chambers for working. This Court takes note of the fact that many lawyers also operate from their vehicles, if they are fortunate enough to own one. However, in view of the fact that there are rules for allotment of chambers, the plea of the Petitioner to provide for specific chambers only for junior advocates cannot be entertained. This Court can only appeal to the Bar Councils/ Associations to be more sensitive to the difficulties of the younger members of the Bar and to consider providing some specified space which can be utilised by the young advocates to further not only their career but also the future of this profession,” the court said.
Case title: Pankaj Kumar v/s Bar Council of Delhi and Ors
Citation: W.P.(C) 12116/2022 & CM APPL. 36228/2022