Although several advocates’ associations have taken steps to provide financial help to lawyers in need, there have been calls to use the welfare funds available with the Karnataka State Bar Council (KSBC).
The advocates’ welfare fund was set up under the Karnataka Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act 1983 and is managed by the KSBC. About 1 lakh advocates are enrolled with the KSBC.
At the time of enrollment, an advocate pays ₹2,100 towards the fund. Someone with less than 15 years of practice pays an annual subscription of ₹1,000, while those above 15 years pay ₹2000. In addition, ₹50 and ₹30 are paid while filing valakat before the High Court and other courts respectively in each case and ₹20 while filing interim application.
“There is good corpus available in the welfare fund. Many advocates are facing hardships owing to the lockdown. This is the time that they need funds from the welfare fund,” said advocate Shashiraj Kavoor from Mangaluru.
A petition by advocate H.C. Shivaramu, former Chairman of the Karnataka Bar Council, seeking release of ₹50,000 to each advocate is coming up for hearing before the High Court on May 5.
Advocate P.P. Hegde, member of the Karnataka Bar Council, said as per the Act the welfare funds can be used in case of the death of an advocate, for medical relief in case of serious ailment, and when a senior advocate ceases to practice. The Act needs to be amended to help advocates in distress now, he said.
As directed by the High Court, the Karnataka Bar Council had a videoconference with members of all the district bar associations and have asked them to collect funds to meet the needs of advocates.
The State Council has created a fund out of donations from advocates and has invited applications of advocates who need aid. “We have received 11,000 applications,” Mr. Hegde said.
Mangaluru Bar Association Secretary H.V. Raghavendra said the association has pooled in funds from advocates and was granting ₹5,000 to each advocate in need.
“We have given this amount to 80 advocates. This, though, barely meets the need,” he said and added that there are many advocates facing hardship in repayment of loans.