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June 23, 2020

Bar Council of Gujarat permits lawyers to take up jobs other than practice till December 2020

by Rubina Dsouza in Legal Court Judgement

Bar Council of Gujarat permits lawyers to take up jobs other than practice till December 2020

Introduction

The world as a whole has seen a huge spike in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current nationwide lockdown, though was essential to flatten the curve has been the biggest job-destroyer in the country. Of these, the casual workers are the most vulnerable due to the irregular nature of their work and daily-wage payment, which are highest in construction sector. Added precautions like social distancing and strict health controls over entry at the workplace and market would also impact the employer-employee working relationship.

workplace and market would also impact the employer-employee working relationship.

Supreme Courts Say:

The Supreme Court recently issued guidelines, permitting video conferencing for ensuring robust functioning of the judicial system across the country. These guidelines were mainly issued in the backdrop to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Courts, now across the nation are taking up urgent matter via video conferencing only and the lawyers are struggling to meet their financial needs.

The Bar Council of Gujarat being aware of the financial struggles due to the current pandemic situation has resolved that the needy advocates who are facing financial difficulties due to the lockdown, are permitted to take up alternative jobs till December 2020. The Council passed a resolution on Sunday to temporarily relax the applicability of Section 35 of the Advocates Act.

Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961 prescribes punishment of advocates for misconduct. The Advocates Act, 1961 as well Indian Bar Council are silent in providing exact definition for professional misconduct because of its wide scope, though under Advocates Act, 1961, punishments are prescribed when the credibility and reputation on the profession comes under a hit on account of acts by any member of the profession. One such act is that any lawyer who has Sanad (licence to practice) from the bar council shall not take up any job or business other than practice. The Bar Council has provided great relief to its members by relaxing the norms of Section 35 for the next 6 months in this regard.

A senior member of Bar Council of Gujarat stated that “We have taken the decision looking to the fact that a large chunk of lawyers are not able to meet their financial needs as they don’t get work from their clients due to the lockdown and courts are not functioning. Therefore, we have decided to give relief in Section 35 of the Act and give liberty to lawyers to adopt the dignified economic activities other than legal practice.”

Penalty for late payment towards renewal charges for its welfare fund has been waived off as well. However, the Council has resolved to take strict action against those lawyers who use social media platforms to abuse the Bar Council and their elected members.

It is also important to note that, only those lawyers, who economically deprived and are unable to carry out their responsibilities due to the COVID 19 pandemic, may avail the benefit of this exemption. The resolution will come into effect after receiving approval from the Bar Council of India.

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