On Tuesday, 14th July 2020, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking issuance of directions to the Bar Council of India to allow the use of advertisements for Advocates, till March 2021, allow public advertising so that they can take up extra paralegal jobs and allow alternative means of livelihood to make a living.
The PIL, filed by Charanjeet Chanderpal, practicing lawyer and Senior Standing Counsel at the Income Tax Department, in his capacity as Secretary-General of the ‘Nitya Law Society’ Non- Governmental Organization, argued that the existing rules need to be changed in order to accommodate lawyers belonging to either the middle of the lower middle class and that they are unable to stand by themselves in relation to the crisis emerged out of the pandemic. The plea stated, “In such situations, for persons other than advocates, if one option to earn to sustain is affected, they can look for alternatives and endeavor that would come in their way. However, if an advocate works outside his profession to stabilize his income, the regulations that govern the conduct of advocates will consider it as professional misconduct.”
Highlighting the financial loss suffered by Advocates during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the petition mentioned the reported cases of suicide, depression and inability to subsist and thus prayed that changes be made to the rules of the Bar Council of India by issuing a circular or modifying or issuing a corrigendum or suspending the current rules, as well as initiate modifications under Section 49 of the Advocates Act, 1961. “There are reports of suicides as a result of no work, medical depression, advocates' family members expiring due to no money to pay medical fees, reports of there being domestic violence in the houses of advocates. This is widely known as the internet is full of this information. This is happening all over India and times has come that the Bar Council of India must allow relaxations within the Rules. The same is applicable to the whole of India and time has come that the Bar Council of India must allow relaxations within the rules”, the plea stated. The petitioner averred to a long- term solution in order to cope with and handle this unprecedented crisis instead of pity aid the Advocates. The recent suicide commission of the 35- year- old Advocate has been illustrated and the petitioner stated that several of his acquaintances are going through a financial crunch and that even Senior Advocates with selective practice are going through a financial crunch as a consequence of the closure of the Courts. “A number of cases of advocates getting suicidal thoughts, suffering from depressing, suffering from no income, suffering from starvation, and no income- all as a result of the closure of courts..... Our NGO to propose the contents of this submission ... This is necessary for the survival of the advocates belonging to the middle and lower-middle class. The representation there represents lakhs of advocates across our country who have stood affected,” it added. The plea put out suggestions to substantiate the same that includes clarification of Chapter III Rule 2 of the Bar Council Rules such as permission to Advocates to be sleeping director/ partner so that they can be inducted as 'legal retainers' and 'legal advisors' in organizations as it sends wrong impressions under the current rule. The petitioner also sought the issuance of a circular permitting the use of ads and WhatsApp messages to enable advocates to partake in chamber work like income tax assistance, GST assistance, registration of societies, trusts, including assistance in the online filing of cases. Last but not least, the issuance of the Official Notification, keeping in mind the ongoing pandemic situation of COVID- 19, allowing Advocates to earn their livelihood by taking alternative means along with an undertaking that they do not extend theirs beyond March 2021.