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Rich lawyers not willing to help poor colleagues? | India News


NEW DELHI: Super-rich lawyers of the Supreme Court, who command respect and money in equal measure, appear to be reluctant to donate even a fraction of their daily earnings to help the SC Bar Association‘s initiative to give grant of Rs 20,000 to advocates who are facing financial hardship due to drastic reduction in litigation during coronavirus-triggered lockdown.
On a rough estimate, there will be at least a dozen senior and noted lawyers whose daily earnings used to touch Rs one crore prior to the lockdown. It is also common knowledge that there are at least 100-odd advocates, practising in SC, whose pre-lockdown monthly income exceeded Rs one crore.
But when the SCBA, through its president Dushyant Dave, acting secretary Rohit Pandey and treasurer Meenesh Dubey, sought donations from its well-to-do members to create a distress fund from which ex-gratia grant of Rs 20,000 could be given to members to tide over financial crisis, the response was at best less than lukewarm.
Some of the super rich advocate-politicians had criticised the Supreme Court for not coming to the help of the poor and destitutes by entertaining PILs by activists. Except Dave, none of those critics donated a pie to the SCBA fund. Also, none of the 22 senior advocates, who had written to the CJI and SC judges imploring them to intervene to help migrant workers prior to the court initiating suo motu proceedings, featured in the list of donors to the SCBA benevolent fund.
To inspire the rich section of advocates to contribute generously and lend a helping hand to the distressed advocates, Dave donated Rs 25 lakh. The example was followed by former additional solicitor general PS Narasimha who pitched in with Rs 15 lakh and former SCBA president Vikas Singh who donated Rs 10 lakh. In all, only 19 members sent in their contributions. Those who donated Rs 5 lakh each included C S Vaidyanathan, Ritin Rai, C U Singh, K V Vishwanathan, Mahesh Jethmalani and Guru Krishna Kumar.
Having collected Rs 96 lakh from donations, the SCBA doled out ex-gratia to its members whose income in the last year did not exceed Rs 8 lakh. It put in certain conditions for eligibility of advocates for availing the ex-gratia payment.
Prior to the grant, the SCBA had also floated a loan scheme that allowed members of the association to avail a maximum interest-free loan of Rs 25,000. In this scheme, the members had the option of repaying the loan in easy instalments in two years, which works out to a little over Rs 1,000 a month.
While the loan scheme drew its corpus from the SCBA fund, the one-time ex-gratia grant scheme was independent of the funds at the disposal of the association and was built purely with voluntary donations from advocates.

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