Lawyers in the State launched their two-day ‘cease work’ agitation on Thursday demanding amendments to the Advocate Welfare Fund Act with emphasis on matching grant by the State government.
Owing to the agitation, work was affected in all courts, including the High Court in Cuttack. Lawyers took out rallies in different parts of the State in support of their demand and also sent memoranda to the State government. In Berhampur, members of Ganjam Bar Association, led by its president Sisir Padhi, took out a rally and reached the office of the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) where they handed over a memorandum.
According to the agitating lawyers, due to continuous demands by the legal fraternity, the State government brought in legislation namely Advocates Welfare Fund Act 1987 with an objective to provide retirement benefits to the advocates. But the lawyers alleged that the State government had not contributed anything to the fund.
At the drafting stage of the Act, it was decided and assured that the government would contribute a grant to the welfare fund but no such provision was inserted in the final Act. During the past 25 years, the State government had never thought of making any review whether the Act was being implemented properly and whether the lawyers were getting proper retirement benefits under the fund constituted and whether the fund was sufficient to meet the needs, despite repeated approach by the State Bar Council. The State Bar Council also suggested certain amendments to the Act. Foremost suggestion was incorporating provision for matching contribution by the State government. The lawyers also decided to picket the State Assembly on the first day of the coming winter session.