Agency New Delhi: The Centre cannot grant fund for welfare measures of lawyers, Union Law minister said Tuesday at a meeting with the members of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and state Bar Associations here. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called representatives of the bar and lawyers to discuss the demands for welfare measures, subsequent to a countrywide protest march of lawyers on Tuesday in which around 35,000 lawyers participated. At the meeting with 21 delegates from the legal fraternity, Prasad said housing of lawyers, which was one of the demands, was a state’s subject and hence the Centre cannot do anything for it, according to a statement by BCI. BCI has said in the statement that Prasad expressed inability of the government to grant any funds at the moment for welfare of lawyers. But he assured to talk with the Delhi Development Authority on the issue of housing for lawyers, the statement said. However, Prasad said he will constitute a committee of some lawyers and officials in order to find out the ways and means for some welfare measures for advocates. Around 35,000 lawyers held a massive “Protest Rally” in all state capitals throughout the country on Tuesday to press for their demands which include allocation of Rs 5,000 crore for the welfare of advocates and litigants. After the meeting with the minister, the delegates decided to meet on March 2 to discuss the future course of action. The demands put forth by the lawyers include that all the bar associations of the country should have chambers, adequate building, sitting facilities with well-equipped libraries, e-libraries, internet facilities, and separate toilet facilities for lady advocates. “In about 80 per cent of the court complexes, there are no proper facilities for the lawyers or the litigants,” BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra had earlier said. “Budgetary allocation of Rs 5000 crores for lawyers and litigants welfare in the Union Annual Budget in order to provide insurance cover of up to Rs 20 lakh for lawyers and their families (dependants), stipend for needy new entrants at the Bar up to five years of their practice (minimum Rs 10,000 per month) and financial protection to lawyers and their dependants in case of untimely death or incapacitation by reason of disease, accident etc,” said a statement by the BCI. The BCI further demanded that the budgetary fund would be managed by the state bar councils and the ratio to be distributed to different state bar councils shall be decided by the apex bar body. It also demanded that the government should frame schemes to acquire lands at cheaper rates for housing of lawyers and necessary changes in the legal services authority act so that functions under the act could be discharged by the lawyers and not by the judges or judicial officers only. BCI Chairman Mishra had earlier said that if the demands were not met even after the protest, they would appeal to the lawyers not to vote for the BJP. “The lawyers’ bodies are meant to save the democracy and the independence of judiciary and all other institutions…No central government has ever given a thought to the welfare of the lawyers as if we are not citizens of the country,” Mishra said.
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