Delhi High Court appeals to senior lawyers to pay good stipend to their juniors

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The Delhi High Court on Friday appealed to senior lawyers at the Bar to ensure that they pay good stipend to their juniors to enable them to lead a dignified life [Pankaj Kumar v Bar Council of Delhi and Ors].

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad also asked seniors to be mindful of financial backgrounds of their juniors and adopt a more empathetic approach.

“This Court makes an appeal to seniors in this profession to ensure that the stipend that is paid to their juniors is enough for their juniors to evade the financial stress that accompanies this profession and allows them to lead a more dignified life. We further appeal to them 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 Court said.

The bench also requested the bar councils and bar associations to be more sensitive to the difficulties faced by the younger members of the Bar and to consider providing some space for them to work.

The Court was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition highlighting the difficulties faced by young lawyers.

The plea said that newly enrolled advocates cannot sustain themselves in Delhi and it is difficult for them to arrange for their accommodation, food, travelling and other expenses without there being any proper and consistent source of income.

It was stated that the Bar Council of India had issued a notification granting a minimum stipend for a sum of ₹5,000 to all the young advocates for the initial three years of their practice. But many junior advocates are not paid anything by their seniors owing to which they are unable to concentrate on the profession, the Court was told.

The petitioner cited a survey conducted by legal policy think tank, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy as per which more than 79% of the advocates across seven High Courts with less than two years of legal practice at the Bar earn less than ₹10,000 per month.

The plea also said that there is unavailability of space for newly enrolled advocates where they can sit and entertain clients and there are no rules to accommodate the newly enrolled advocates in the chambers.

However, the Court said that though it is cognisant of the issues faced by young lawyers, a writ of mandamus cannot be issued 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.

It can only make an earnest appeal, the Court said while dismissing the plea.

Judges said that the young professionals in all fields face similar problems and the court cannot single out the legal profession alone and hold that only young advocates have the right to claim a stipend.

“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… 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,” the Court said.

It added,

“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, are able to sustain themselves. Other than making an earnest appeal to the Bar Council of Delhi and the Bar Council of India to make provisions for providing stipends to the young advocates, who have recently enrolled themselves in the profession, so that they can overcome the financial stress in the initial years of practice, this Court cannot pass a writ of mandamus directing them to mandatorily provide stipends to the young advocates.”

Advocates Srikant Prasad and Dewashish Viswakarma appeared for the petitioner in the case.

Central Government Standing Counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, Additional Standing Counsel for Delhi, Anuj Aggarwal along with advocates Danish Faraz Khan, Ayushi Bansal and Sanyam Suri appeared for respondents.

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