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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Implications of COVID 19 on courts & Advocate. Adv. Vinayak D. Porob





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Courts cases in India are disposed of in years and the litigants in order to get justice have to be patient as perseverance can only lead to justice in the country’s present judicial set up as in keeping up with the tradition of the Indian Courts, continuous adjournments for one reason or the other are granted which delays disposal of cases. Similarly various forums and appellate remedies available to challenge the final orders passed by the lower courts further causes delay in disposal of cases for years in the current judicial set up which requires drastic changes in order to reduce the time consumed in deciding a case. The Hon’ ble Supreme Court by issuing directions has tried its level best to an extent to reduce the pendency of cases. Also the point system introduced for the disposal of cases wherein a presiding officer of a court on the basis of disposals acquire points is somehow reducing the pendency however with an adverse implication as in an endeavor by the presiding officers to achieve minimum points in a month or to gain maximum points disposes of cases in such a haste that the quality of the reasoning given in the final judgement is adversely affected which in turn has a negative effect on the justice delivery mechanism. Points system for the Presiding Officers and marks system for kids in schools have a glaring similarity I feel on a lighter note.

Corona Virus and the Covid-19 Pandemic has not helped and has been a reason since last more than a year in causing delay in disposal of cases and in granting adjournments by keeping up with the tradition of Indian Courts wherein granting adjournments on various grounds are  fundamental to any court proceedings. The Advocates appearing in the courts are financially adversely affected due to the pandemic as hardly any court hearings are conducted and most of the dates of hearings are uploaded on the E-Court Services Application. The junior advocates who are totally dependent on the income derived by attending daily court hearings are facing greater deal of hardships as their daily income has suddenly stopped since hearings are not conducted and some of them are even struggling to meet their day to day expenses. The system of virtual courts has been a failure to an extent in my opinion as in most of the areas in Goa there are internet connectivity issues due to which there is a problem in transmission of video and audio as a result of which conducting virtual hearings of court cases becomes not only difficult but almost an impossible task.  As per the guidelines only urgent matters of Bails and/or of Temporary Injunctions are taken up by the courts and that too virtually and hence considering the ratio of bails or injunctions filed, I think  only 20 percent of the Advocates get work as far as filing of Injunction suits or bails are concerned. Injunctions and bails are usually argued by the senior advocates and juniors in practice don’t get exposure to such matters as a result of which junior advocates are deprived of their normal day to day court hearings income due to this Pandemic. Since the litigants and accused are not allowed to enter the court rooms most of the accused and litigants don’t turn up before their advocates to pay the fees and more so as no hearings are conducted, principally being wrong most of the advocates have not charged fees during this period of Covid -19 pandemic. The expenses incurred by an upcoming and a young advocate are not decreasing because of the pandemic however are the same irrespective of the situation of the pandemic. If an advocate has a young family to look after in addition to the loan obtained for his office or house than during this pandemic due to lack of income he will be in crisis and will neither be in the position to pay the monthly loan installments nor he will be able to sustain a living. Circulars issued have reduced working hours of courts and also the strength of the court staff by virtue of which by working less, full salary is drawn by the judges and the court staff. However for advocates who are officers of the court, neither the Government nor the Courts have any sympathy for as no facilities as far as loans or medi-claims are provided to advocates during this tough time. From the attitude of the Government towards the Advocates it appears that the advocates are considered as the most unwanted elements of the society facing all sorts of criticism, however when in need and /or  in trouble the government approaches no other person than an advocate to bail them out of trouble. All the praises and good deeds are always credited to the Doctors and other professionals and rightly so, however it is sad that advocates are always perceived suspiciously by all sections of the society as even some banks do not grant loans to advocates. It is also really disappointing to see that during this pandemic to have priority while administering the Covid -19 vaccines, Advocates are not even declared as frontline warriors by the Government.

Advocates for very less remuneration conduct cases under the free legal aid programme where virtually the advocates are paid nothing by the government to conduct a case under the free legal aid scheme; however the efforts of the advocates as usual go unnoticed irrespective of the social service and social work done by the advocates. Even in private practice half of the clients do not pay fees however as part of the job, the Advocates nobly litigate and conduct cases irrespective of the fact whether the fees are paid or not which sadly the society or the government has failed to take a note of. The risk of covid-19 is too hard to run by and therefore the Circulars limiting court working hours and prohibiting entry of litigants was the need of the hour during this pandemic considering the life and safety of the Judges, Staff, Advocates and the Litigants. Litigants and witnesses travelling distances and attending courts could have contributed in the spread of the virus and therefore rightly Circulars were issued limiting court working hours and imposing other restrictions. However while issuing such circulars the plight of the lawyers with respect to their financial needs was neither thought of nor considered. Though health and safety is utmost yet without income the health and safety has no meaning if someone is dying out of starvation. Therefore considering the financial plight of advocates who have no pension or surety for their livelihood, the government ought to have introduced some scheme during this period of pandemic to financially accommodate the Advocates who are in desperate trouble due to lack of  income. The Government should stop treating Advocates as second class citizens and should consider advocates on par with the Doctors and other professionals or else the profession of Advocacy which is a noble profession will lose its charm.

(This is the personal opinion of the writer of this Article who is a practicing advocate from Mapusa.)

 

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