Delhi High Court is hearing a petition filed by advocate KR Chitra against the manner in which the Advocates’ Welfare Fund (Fund) is being operated in the State of NCT of Delhi. Petitioner has asserted before the Court that the fund is being operated in an arbitrary manner and does not present too happy, a state of affairs.
Petitioner has taken help of certain information obtained through RTI. Her petition highlights several discrepancies qua the list supplied by the Bar Council of Delhi with regard to, disbursement made from the Fund. As per Indian Express, Petitioner has alleged “abuse of authority” by the office bearers of Bar Council of Delhi and “embezzlement and misappropriation of funds” from the indigent and disabled lawyers welfare scheme and welfare fund. She has also sought court orders to register an FIR against the Advocates Welfare Fund’s trustee board and office bearers of the bar council. Petitioner has also alleged that “a lot of discrimination” had been done in the disbursement of funds.
||Writ Petition (C) No. 6705 of 2014
||K R Chitra v. Advocates Welfare Fund Trustee Committee And Ors.
||Delhi High Court
Court observes that powers under the Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 2001 have been delegated to the Government of NCT. Hence ordered for the impleadment of Government of NCT as a party and issued notice to all the parties.
5 February 2015
Court observes that the RTI data submitted by the Petitioner revealed, “at least prima facie, that the state of affairs with regard to the operation of the aforementioned fund, is less than satisfactory”.
It further observed:
A perusal of the list would show that in some cases moneys appear to have been released without specifying the ailment or, the treatment, that the applicant is undergoing. These instances are set out at serial nos. 29, 32 and 37.
There are other instances where there is no reference whatsoever of the kind of ailment suffered by the applicant, though a huge sum of Rs. 1.20 Lacs has been released…There are instances where nature of illness is nebulous, to say the least.
Being unhappy with the fact that the Respondents did not clarify to the discrepancies through the counter affidavits, Justice Rajiv Shakadher appointed two members of the Bar – Brij Bhushan Gupta and Suparna Srivastava, Advocates as Court Commissioners to inspect the record of Delhi Bar Council, pertaining to the fund, and report to the court with regard to the following:
- As to whether any criteria has been fixed for disbursement of financial assistance.
- Whether the release of funds made in the last five (5) years depicts any discrepancy.
- While examining point no. (ii), the Court Commissioners will examine as to whether, the release of amount to an applicant is, supported by relevant medical documents and bills, etc.
Court also ordered that the Commissioners will carry out a sample check to ascertain as to whether, the applicants were genuine and do a stock taking exercise vis-a-vis welfare stamps printed by the Fund. For this, Court Commissioner were asked to ascertain as to whether the Fund had put in place procedures to monitor the number of stamps printed and sold within a defined period, such as, the financial year. Court observed that this exercise was critical as the sale of welfare stamps is a major source for generation of revenue by the Fund.
Commissioners were to file their report in four weeks which was later extended till 21 May 2015.
21 May 2015
Court observed that the Commissioners’ report undoubtedly revealed that there are discrepancies in disbursement of moneys to advocates and that even basic safeguards had not been adhered to.
Justice Shakadher thus ordered:
In view of the above, it appears, the way forward would be, to have certain guidelines being framed for disbursement of funds. Therefore, counsels for respondent no.2 to 4 are requested to sit together and submit to this court draft guidelines for disbursement of funds.
The draft guidelines will be circulated by the counsels for respondent no.2 to 4 for inputs of the petitioner.
A eight-weeks’ time was granted for this exercise.
13 August 2015
Counsel for the Government of NCT of Delhi told Court that that rules were framed and notified in exercise of powers under Section 35 of the Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act, 2001 (Act) on 25 January 2002 and submitted that the Rules may not entirely address the problem under consideration in the Petition.
Court also found that there were issues with the constitution of the Trustee Committee for the funds. Section 4 of the Act states that the Committee shall consist of the following:
- the Advocate-General of a State,
- the Secretary to the appropriate Government in its Law Department or Ministry,
- the Secretary to the appropriate Government in its Home Department or Ministry,
- the Chairman of the State Bar Council,
- the Government Pleader or the Public Prosecutor, as may be nominated by the appropriate Government,
- two advocates to be nominated by the State Bar Council,
- the Secretary of the State Bar Council
Relying on the Court Commissioners’ report, Court observed that neither the Secretary, Ministry of Law of the
appropriate government, which in this case is the GNCTD, nor the Secretary, Home Department of GNCTD, have participated in the meetings of the Committee.
Court passed the following directions:
- the two Secretaries of the GNCTD shall participate in all future meetings of the Committee,
- GNCTD will also ensure that other vacant slots in the committee as provided for in Section 4 of the 2001 Act are duly filled up.
Justice Shakdher then requested the Chairperson of the Bar Council of Delhi to interface with the counsels appearing in the matter “so that matter is constructively taken forward for the benefit of the lawyer community”.
Next date of hearing: 24 September 2015