The Delhi High Court has appealed to senior lawyers to ensure the stipend they pay to their juniors is enough to avoid financial stress and help them lead a more dignified life.
The high court asked senior advocates to be more mindful of the financial background of their juniors and show them greater empathy.
“This court also 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,” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said.
The court’s observations came while refusing to entertain a plea seeking to direct the Centre and the Bar Council of Delhi to consider financial difficulties and give monthly assistance of Rs 5,000 to the newly enrolled advocates in the national capital during their first year of practice.
The high court said it is for the bar councils to make provisions to extend some kind of financial assistance so 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,” it said.
The court said it was not persuaded to entertain the public interest litigation (PIL).
The bench said, “unfortunately”, young professionals in all fields, be it medicine, chartered accountancy, architecture, engineering, etc., all face problems that are similar to the ones being faced by young advocates.
Job opportunities are scarce and people competing for these far too many which makes the competition arduous and the services of an individual dispensable, it said, adding 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 is well settled that a writ can lie only for the enforcement of the right established by law and Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be stretched to encompass in itself a right of an advocate to claim a monthly stipend from bar associations,” the bench said.
The petitioner said several state bar councils have already made provisions for extending financial assistance to young advocates and the same is also required in Delhi as the cost of living here is higher than in most states.
The petition also sought a direction for making rules for chamber/ co-working space allotment by creating an equal opportunity for the newly enrolled advocates.
The petitioner, a young lawyer, highlighted the unavailability of space for newly enrolled advocates where they can sit and entertain clients, and the lack of rules to accommodate them in the chambers.
With regard to space in chambers, the bench said every bar association or court has rules for their allotment which is usually done on the basis of seniority and 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,” it said.
The bench said, undoubtedly, the petitioner has highlighted the problems being faced by the young lawyers. Those who have just enrolled themselves as advocates, face immense difficulties in sustaining themselves owing to the “high cost of living” in Delhi.
The court said it is indeed very difficult for young advocates to bear expenses for the purposes of accommodation, food, and travel, and noted the fact that many of these young people either do not get paid by their seniors or the salaries are so meager they barely cover the cost of living in a metropolitan city.
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