The petitions in these cases are heard together on account of common issues. The Petitioners are practising counsel, justifiably apprehends that members of the Bar and their Clerks were interdicted by the Police Authorities from travelling, to reach their offices/chambers/Courts and other legal forums.
The petition W.P.(C) No.11056/2021was considered on 05.05.2021 and had passed the Order on the apprehension of Government Order, advocates and their clerks may be interdicted by the police force from attending their offices, chambers, Courts and other legal forums. The learned Senior Government Pleader submitted that the apprehension of the Petitioner was baseless as the police are only maintaining constant vigil and will not disturb the professional functioning of any lawyer or their office staff. It was later submitted that if any advocate or clerk is stopped by the police, it will be sufficient to produce their identity cards and explain where they are going and if they are proceeding to their offices, chambers, Courts and other legal forums, they will not be stopped in any manner.
The Petitioner in W.P.(C) No.11060/2021, placed reliance on several precedents to contend that advocates and their clerks must be regarded as “essential services” and prayed that their movement is directed to be not prohibited by the Government even during “lockdown”. He asserted that without Advocates and their Clerks, the liberties of ordinary citizens cannot be protected, particularly when the entire system is closed down on account of the Covid – 19 restrictions.
During the hearing, the All India Jurists’ Association, sought for a declaration that advocate services be deemed as essential services and that their movement to and from offices be allowed in this light. Advocate Melwin Byju, Advocate Thomas Abraham for the Bar Association, and Advocate Rajit for the Kerala Bar Council sought exceptions to the restrictions imposed, insofar as a movement to Courts and offices were concerned. Sri. Thomas Abraham, the President of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association, appearing in person, endorsed the view that Advocates and their Clerks must be allowed at least minimum access to their offices and Courts so that they will be in a position to file and move litigations if it becomes absolutely necessary. The Bar Council of India also argued by saying that though the lives of Advocates and their Clerks are important, their professional freedom cannot make be lost sight of. Therefore, wanted that except for reasonable restrictions, the access of Advocates to their offices and Courts be not completely prevented.
Senior Government Pleader Suman Chakravarthy stated that allowing movement during a complete lockdown would be difficult, but indicated his assent to the Court’s suggestions.
As there is no total “lockdown” but only restrictions Ordered by the Government, the arrangement that had been directed in the interim Order dated 04.05.2021 writ petition will have to be maintained. However, when it comes to complete “lockdown”, the situation is slightly different. Therefore, it is certain that these writ petitions deserve to be Ordered in a limited manner. Reasoning to Advocates and their Clerks be declared as “essential service”, the Court do not deem it appropriate to speak on it in any manner, since it is a matter to be decided by the Government at the appropriate level – it being in the realm of policy decision making.
Advocates would not be exempt from checking during travel but would be allowed movement upon production of identity documents and on disclosing where they were travelling.
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