The Bar Council of West Bengal
told the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday that about 22,000 applications for financial aid have been received from advocates owing to the COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown and these were being processed.
The state Bar Council needs to obtain permission from the Bar Council of India before starting disbursement of such financial aid to the advocates in distress, the court was informed in connection with a letter petition by a lawyer for directing the West Bengal Bar Council to disburse monetary assistance to financially distressed lawyers.
A letter has been written by the Bar Council of West Bengal to the Bar Council of India seeking such permission, but no response has been received till date, a division bench comprising Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee was told by lawyers representing the WB Bar Council.
The petitioner claimed that with the functioning of the Calcutta High Court, the circuit benches at Jalpaiguri and Andaman and Nicobar Islands and subordinate courts suspended since the nationwide lockdown began, many lawyers are in distress and urged for direction to the WB Bar Council to provide financial aid to them.
The courts are hearing only extremely urgent matters through video conferencing.
Advocate Billwadal Bhattacharya submitted that huge amounts on account of lawyers fees for rendering professional services were outstanding and payable by the state government as well as the central government to the advocates who represent them.
He submitted that if such dues of the lawyers are cleared, the same shall mitigate the hardship of the government advocates to a great extent.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta, representing the state government, and Vipul Kundalia, the advocate representing the Centre, at the request of the division bench presided by the chief justice, assured the court that they will look into the matter and discuss the issue at the appropriate level.
The matter will be taken up for hearing again on May 29.
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