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The petitioner argued that young advocates are unable to arrange for their accommodation, food, traveling, and other expenses, and without there being any proper and consistent source of income, they are unable to make ends meet.
The Delhi High Court has made an appeal to the seniors in the law profession to ensure that the stipend that is paid to their juniors is enough for them to evade financial stress.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad noted, "This Court can take judicial notice of the fact that youngsters, who have just enrolled themselves as Advocates, face immense difficulties in sustaining themselves owing to the high cost of living in Delhi. It is indeed very difficult for young advocates to bear expenses for accommodation food, and traveling expenses."
The order has been passed in a plea filed by Advocate Pankaj Kumar seeking direction to the Bar Council of Delhi and Bar Council of India to consider the financial difficulties of all junior advocates and to provide financial assistance of Rs.5000 to the newly enrolled advocates in the Bar Council of Delhi during their initial years of practice.
The petition highlighted the difficulties being faced by newly enrolled advocates who are finding themselves in a position where they cannot sustain themselves in Delhi. It was stated that the young advocates are unable to arrange for their accommodation, food, traveling, and other expenses, and without there being any proper and consistent source of income, they are unable to make ends meet.
It was submitted that a survey conducted by the 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 Court took note of the fact that many of these youngsters either do not get paid by their seniors or the salaries that are paid to them are so meager that it barely covers the cost of living in a metropolitan city.
Additionally, the plea stated, "Many of these young advocates, if fortunate enough, either have to depend on their families to meet day-to-day expenses or are reduced to a state whereby they are forced to take up more lucrative and feasible job offers. 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 counterparts."
However, the court said that the short question which arose for consideration was whether the court could 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 bench also opined that unfortunately, young professionals in all fields, be it Medicine, Chartered Accountancy, Architecture, 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, court said.
Given the above, the bench said, "This 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 said that it is for the Bar Councils to make provisions to provide some kind of financial assistance so that the young advocates, who are the future of this noble profession, can sustain themselves.
The Court also made an appeal to the Seniors to be more mindful of the financial background of their juniors and employ a more empathetic approach towards the same, considering the virtuosity of this profession.
The plea also sought direction for making rules for chamber/coworking space allotment by creating an equal opportunity for the newly enrolled advocates.
Over the issue, the court said, "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".
Furthermore, it noted that the plea to provide specific chambers only for junior advocates could not 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 that can be utilized by the young advocates to further not only their career but also the future of this profession, the bench stated.
Case Title: Pankaj Kumar Vs. Bar Council of Delhi & Ors.
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