Lack of social security of advocates is still a grave issue for most of the practicing advocates. The well-being of lawyers and the strategy for their social security is a topic of considerable importance and one that needs the close attention of the Government, the Bar Councils, the Bar and the Legal Fraternity at large. The lack of any type of relief to advocates forces them to take some serious steps. Many lawyers have committed suicide owing to the pressure of liabilities to be paid off in this time of coronavirus pandemic. This lockdown has made many people lose their lives on their own. One such affected section is of advocates.
No concrete measures are in place as of now for the social security of advocates and this delay in justice is making advocates lose their lives. Through the enactment of the Advocate’s Welfare Fund Act, 2001, several measures were taken in this direction. Nevertheless, the poor execution of its provisions has made it almost extinct, leaving advocates, one of the main foundations of Indian society, in the wind. Given the status of advocates today, there is a need for innovative and comprehensive measures. Sections 26 and 27 of the Advocates 'Welfare Fund Act of 2001 comply with the Advocates' Welfare Fund Stamp. Section 27 of the Act requires every advocate to make a compulsory stamp on every ‘vakalatnama’ filed by them. The value of the stamp to be affixed differs from State to State. The first step is to streamline the authentication and accountability of the welfare stamp itself. There is a need to introduce electronic methods to eliminate even the possibility of fudging of stamps.
This is imperative because the sale of such stamps forms the primary corpus of the Fund. The extent of this funding is evident as one delves into arithmetic. Approximately 6 lakh cases are lodged annually in the State of Punjab (including the lower courts). Assuming that there are at least 3 parties in each situation (and hence 3 stamps on these vakalatnamas), currently priced at Rs. 25 per stamp, this in itself is a (minimum) corpus addition of Rs. 4.5 crore. Every year, a small raise to Rs. 50 per stamp would raise this to Rs. 9 crores. Systems ought to be put in place to track these contributions to the Fund such that such an effective return is sought on such corpus.
Then there are steps to increase the budget. Each day, lakhs of ropes are (cumulatively) imposed by the Courts as expenses of frivolous lawsuits. Although this sum is directed into a variety of welfare measures, the effectiveness of these initiatives can be significantly increased by requesting the courts to specifically direct that a certain part of such expenses be paid to the welfare fund. It is an extraordinary irony that, while several lawyers have become finance ministers, the Government of India has not managed to exempt contributions rendered to the Advocates Welfare Fund from tax.