Providing much relief to the 5,970 advocates suspended from practice due to non-payment of subscription fees to the Advocates Welfare Fund, the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherryon March 26, 2019, has agreed to keep the suspension order in abeyance for two weeks.
A Division Bench of Justices N.Kirubakaran
however, rapped the defaulting advocates and the Madras High Court Advocates Association for challenging the suspension order instead of clearing the pending fees. "If you cannot even pay the fee which comes around Rs 3,000, what is the point in practising?" the Bench said.
"Understand the purpose for which such funds are created. If you do not want such benefit, just file an affidavit to that effect," the Bench further added. To this, the learned counsel appearing for the association contended that they were not opposing the fund or payment of subscription, but the suspension order issued to the advocates without any notice. "The advocates have not committed any professional misconduct or criminal offence to face such action. Moreover the Bar Council of India (BCI) can suspend a lawyer only on disciplinary grounds and not for failure to pay subscription," the learned counsel said. Senior counsel R.Singaravelan, representing the Bar Council, submitted before the court that notices have been sent eight times to each defaulting advocate through various means. However, 4,021 notices had been returned because of the wrong address. Hinting that a considerable chunk of advocates facing the suspension may be fake or non-practicing advocates, he said the Bar Council expected that hundreds of lawyers would approach it for payment after the suspension order was issued. "But so far only 12 have cleared the dues. Moreover, the suspension order itself is very clear that the suspension is only till payment of the pending fees," he said. Recording the submissions, the Bench asked the senior counsel for the Bar Council whether he could keep the order in abeyance for two weeks so that some more time could be given for compliance. Agreeing to it, Singaravelam insisted that each advocate appear in person to prove their identity to make the payment. Recording the same, the court posted the matter for further hearing on April 9, 2019.