The Delhi High Court on Tuesday temporarily stayed a single-judge order extending insurance benefits under the Chief Minister’s Advocates’ Welfare Scheme to all lawyers residing in the National Capital Region (NCR), whether or not they are registered to vote in Delhi [Balvinder Singh Bagga & Ors v. Govt of NCT of Delhi].
A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Amit Bansal stayed the order passed by Justice Pratibha Singh until the next date of hearing.
“Exemption application allowed along with stay. We hereby stay the order until next date of hearing,” the Court said.
The stay was granted till September 30, which is the next date of hearing for the matter.
Advocate Satyakam, appearing on behalf of the Delhi government, apprised the Court that notice had already been issued by the Court on an appeal challenging the single-judge’s decision to extend the scheme to lawyers beyond the jurisdictional confines of Delhi. He also stated that the matter was to come up for hearing by the end of this month.
“However, if the impugned order is not stayed, the Delhi government will have to pay premiums for all advocates, including those living in the National Capital Region (NCR). After that, even if the appeal is in our favour, the Delhi government would have to bear a huge financial loss. The amount will not be recoverable as it is about insurance policy,” he submitted.
Advocate Vivek Jain appeared for the appellant.
Last month, the High Court sought the response of the Bar Council of Delhi and Advocate Govind Swaroop Chaturvedi, who was the petitioner before the single-judge, in a similar plea.
During that hearing, Senior Advocate Rajiv Nayar, on behalf of the Delhi government, had also sought a stay on the order passed by Justice Singh.
He had contended that the Delhi government’s policy had been misunderstood by the single-judge, who had erroneously extended its coverage outside of the national capital.
“A total of ₹50 crore was allotted for this welfare scheme. If we are extending it outside the State confines, then why not extend it to Tamil Nadu also?” Nayar had submitted.
In November last year, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal had announced that a 13-member committee of lawyers would be set up to make recommendations on the utilization of the ₹50 crore earmarked for the Advocates Welfare Fund by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.
In December 2019, the Advocates Committee set up under the convenorship of then Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Rakesh Khanna proposed the rolling out of Group (Term) Insurance, Group Medi-Claim, e-library and creche for advocates in Delhi towards the utilization of the Chief Minister’s Advocates Welfare Scheme.
The Scheme was approved by the Delhi government earlier this year. The Scheme provides several benefits to Delhi lawyers, including Group (Term) Insurance, Group Medi-Claim, e-library, and creche for advocates in Delhi.
In March this year, the present plea to extend this scheme to lawyers residing in NCR, but practicing in Delhi, was filed.
The Single Judge allowed this plea and directed that all lawyers registered with the Bar Council of Delhi, residing in Delhi and the surrounding National Capital Region (NCR), shall be entitled to be covered under the Scheme.
Justice Prathiba Singh had observed that there may be lawyers who practice primarily in Delhi, but have their permanent residence in places like Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad, etc.
It was further noted that all may not be able to reside in the metropolitan area of Delhi due to many reasons like availability or affordability of accommodation etc.
She had, therefore, ruled that the insistence on a voter ID showing residence in Delhi to avail the welfare scheme is discriminatory, arbitrary and has no link to the object of the scheme