Vakalatnama Fund; A need, Indeed
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
‘Ethics is between knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do’
In lieu of constant endeavors to meet its demands for the interest of lawyers, the Bar council of India called for a nationwide strike on 12th of February 2019. The protest witnessed participation of as many as 17 lakh lawyers from across the country. The pertinent question here is not about what the protest signified but when did we reach a point that the bearers of jurisdiction had to march to the streets to be heard?
Let’s commence with the basics!
The bar council prior to calling the nationwide agitation had also written to the Prime minister stating its demands and raising concerns on repeated failure of assurances to their demands.
The plight of lawyers is no secret, at least to the members of the fraternity. Although one is not sure if the same can be said about masses at large. Simply put, opinions are formed when found out that 100 of crores of cash was recovered from a lawyer’s office or how some senior advocates charge/levy fees per appearance worth a Ferrari. Guilty as charged!
So who is a Lawyer? Someone who you know for working towards upholding your rights and provisions, and perhaps in return charging (if given an option) insane amount of money for the same? In short either minting money or burning holes in your pocket. However, to tell you the truth there is a lot more than what meets the eye.
Little do we know that a lawyer when set out to build his own practice, is a product that he also has to sell. The process of which is rather tedious. More often than not, not all end up representing big corporate honchos bringing back hefty cheques or bag full of moolahs.
Keeping the above and various other catalysts in mind, the bar council chose to stand up for the welfare of lawyers and hence demanded the government to acknowledge its demands like medical facility; insurance; housing schemes; financial assistance to young lawyers; pension schemes; Advocate Protectionact amongst a few. Needless to say that these are some basic welfare schemes that many of us from the working class require and deserve.
Now, it is believed that two of the seven union territories Delhi and Puducherry have not only acknowledged the demands but have assured to process them at the earliest. The acceptance has surely brought some sense of belief to the council but has not been very encouraging as, if the demands are not met by all states unanimously the situation is very unlikely to change for lawyers. Since not all young gowns will be willing or will have the means to comfortably migrate to Delhi or Puducherry merely for the stipend and not much in hand to produce for themselves annually.
The demands raised by Bar Council are fair and practical as they basically ask for welfare fund for Lawyers. But one needs to understand that for a lawyer to be able to access the same one will have to be subject to authority approvals and allocated only under given norms and conditions, which is understood and is agreed up on.
But on the flip side just how many migrants would 2 UTs be able to support. Not only that, each stated will have different allocation of budget which will develop disparity in the stipend for lawyers. With lesser stipend, lawyers will want to move to other states thereby discouraging state law practice. So in turn it limits the utilization of funds and does not necessarily reach all the lawyers in need.
Therefore, in addition to the above there is a greater need of creating a model of self-sustainability which will encourage equality in welfare schemes and make a lawyer not only independent but also socially sound and secure.
One Such step can be of amending the Act and making mandatory deposit of a sum of Rs. 1500/- on signing of every Vakalatnama. Such fees shall be taken in the form of DDs or Special Stamps or even E-Challans and the said amount shall be deposited and credited against the enrollment number of each Lawyer. This money can then be utilized by the lawyer on the same governing provisions as those of Provident Fund or as Pension as the case may be. The same to be effective has to be made compulsory and non-accompanying of specific fees along with the vakalatnama would result in non-acceptance of Vakaltnama. The Idea can further be strengthened if seniors after establishing their practice can file their vakalatnama with primary name of their respective juniors.
A Lawyer who starts practicing at the age of 24-25 would be able to create sufficient fund for himself in a practice of 30 years even with bare minimum cases. In addition to that the interest on the money of over 30 years would also substantially make the amount grow. If the mechanism is coupled with additional schemes where the Lawyers can also contribute their savings towards the fund created on their Enrollment Number the scheme would become favor lawyers substantially.
Lastly, the interest of lawyer’s welfare scheme is not only to provide financial aid but a holistic eco system which includes various facets that will empower, encourage and instill a great amount of credibility in what was once seen as the most Noble profession.