Senior lawyers not paying juniors is exploitation, violative of fundamental rights: Madras High Court

Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

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The Court said that Section 6 of the Advocates Act mandates that Bar Councils must work for the welfare of all lawyers registered with them.

The Madras High Court recently said that senior lawyers not paying even a minimum stipend amount to the junior lawyers who work with them, amounts to exploitation and breaches the junior lawyers' fundamental rights.

In an order passed on June 3, a bench of Justices SM Subramaniam and C Kumarappan also directed the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to get instructions on framing guidelines on fixing a standard minimum amount that must be paid to every junior lawyer engaged with a senior. 

The Bench further said that Section 6 of the Advocates Act of 1961 mandated that Bar Councils must work for the welfare of all lawyers registered with them.

Therefore, the TN Bar Council is bound to safeguard the interest of lawyers registered with it, the Court said.

"Further, it is brought to our notice that young brilliant lawyers after enrolling themselves as Advocates in Bar council of Tamil Nadu is unable to survive on account of the fact that the senior lawyers / lawyers engaging the services of the these junior lawyers, are not paying even the minimum stipend to meet out their livelihood. Extracting work without payment is an exploitation and directly in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined under the Constitution. The livelihood of these young brilliant lawyers, who have started their practice with a fond hope must be encouraged by the senior lawyers, legal fraternity and the Courts," the High Court said. 

The Court made the observations while hearing a petition filed by one Farida Begum who told the Court that around 200 applications submitted by lawyers seeking benefits under The Tamil Nadu Advocate's Welfare Fund have been pending for months. 

The Bench then went on to observe that it had come to its notice that often senior lawyers did not pay any money to their juniors.

Such practice, the Court said, was not right.

"Exploitation at no circumstances can be permitted nor be appreciated. Therefore, it is the function of the Bar Council to ensure that the livelihood of these lawyers are protected by fixing minimum stipend to be paid in the event of engaging the services of the junior lawyers, who have enrolled," the Court said.

It directed the TN Bar Council to get instructions on the issue by June 12.