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‘Be empathetic’: Delhi HC rejects stipend plea, urges senior advocate to be kind to juniors

While dismissing a public interest litigation seeking a minimum stipend of Rs 5,000 for newly enrolled advocates, the Delhi High Court has appealed to senior advocates to be more empathetic and provide a sufficient stipend to junior advocates.

Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, who heard a 29-year-old advocate’s PIL seeking a direction to the Bar Council of India and the Bar Council of Delhi to pay the stipend, observed on September 23 that young professionals in medicine, chartered accountancy, architecture, engineering etc also faced problems similar to the ones faced by young advocates. The court held that while exercising its writ jurisdiction, it could not 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 of India cannot be stretched to encompass in itself a right of an advocate to claim a monthly stipend from the Bar association,” the judges said.

The petitioner argued that young advocates were unable to meet expenses for accommodation, food and travelling because their income was inconsistent.

The court, however, observed that the Bar council could make a provision for giving financial assistance to young advocates. The court held that it could only make an earnest appeal to the Bar Council of India and Bar Council of Delhi so that young advocates can overcome financial stress in the initial years of their practice.

The court appealed to senior advocates to be more mindful of the financial background of their juniors while paying them and be more empathetic towards them, “considering the virtuosity of this profession”.

The petitioner referred to a Bar Council of India notification granting a minimum Rs 5,000 stipend to all advocates for the initial three years of practice. “Many junior advocates are not paid anything by their seniors,” he said.

He also referred to a survey conducted by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, which showed that more than “79% of the advocates across seven high courts with less than two years of legal practice at the Bar are earning less than Rs 10,000 per month”.

The unavailability of space in chambers for newly enrolled advocates to entertain clients was also raised by the petitioner.

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