The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain pleas filed by lawyers associations of the apex court which sought directions to the Centre for formulating a scheme to support advocates and other professionals in paying their office rent during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The top court said that prayers in the PILs filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and lawyers of Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA), are unreasonable and “no special consideration can be granted to the lawyers”.
A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai dismissed the petition and granted liberty to senior advocate Kailash Vasudeva, appearing for SCBA to withdraw the plea.
During the hearing Vasudeva said they were not saying rent should not be charged but the non-payment of rent should not be made a ground for eviction during the lockdown.
The bench shot back, “tomorrow engineers will come, architects will come. How can we give special consideration to lawyers? This is unreasonable for us to do. There may be old ladies, aged persons as landlords. How can we say this?”
Vasudeva said there are high density areas and lawyers may lose their office spaces due to non-payment of rents during lockdown period.
The bench said it would not enter into this issue as “lawyers are not entitled for any special consideration”.
The senior advocate sought liberty of the court to withdraw the petition saying he would then make a representation to the government.
The SCBA had on April 22, filed an intervention application in a PIL filed by Aljo K Joseph, member of Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCAORA), seeking direction to the Centre for formulating a scheme to support advocates and other professionals in paying their office rent during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The PIL filed by Joseph through advocate Sachin Sharma contends that due to the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, they are not able to practice and make any money.
“Since there is no financial protection given to lawyers and other professionals by the government of India, the present petition has been filed to urge grievances and hardship caused to the lawyers and professionals in this country due to the COVID-19 and unavoidable lockdown pursuant to the epidemic situation in India,” the plea has said.
It has said that the Centre declared the lockdown without any consultation with any of the professional associations and no specific steps have been taken by it to extend any help to support working professionals.
The plea has sought directions to the Centre to formulate an appropriate scheme to support advocates and other professionals in the country in paying their rent exclusively for the professional premises used for practice of the professions or office purpose.