Delhi High Court seeks Centre, states' Response to Lockdown curbs on Lawyers

Delhi High Court seeks Centre, states' Response to Lockdown curbs on Lawyers

The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought response of the Centre, governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana on a plea by the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) challenging the decision of the neighbouring states restricting the movement of advocates to visit their offices and attend courts in the national capital.

Justice Prateek Jalan, who conducted the hearing through video conferencing, also asked the Delhi government to file its reply to the petition and listed the matter for further hearing on May 18.

While the Delhi government's counsel supported the petition, the Haryana government opposed the plea and the Uttar Pradesh government remained unrepresented during the hearing.

The plea, through BCD chairperson and advocate KC Mittal, referred to a May 1 order of the Central government permitting the use of private offices during the lockdown and contended that advocates, who are residing in neighbouring areas of Delhi, like Noida and Gurugram, are also entitled to travel to the national capital and use their offices.

During the hearing, the Centre's counsel assured the court that an endeavour would be made to resolve the grievances raised in the petition.

Mr Mittal submitted that it was not adversarial litigation and lawyers themselves were conscious and disciplined in the fight against COVID-19.

The petition, filed through advocate Amit Prakash Shahi, said that on May 8, the Delhi government has issued a statement according to which Chartered Accountants and advocates cannot be prevented from attending their private offices.

"The advocates residing in different towns of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are entitled to enter Delhi and open their offices and respective governments, their officials and agents cannot prevent the advocates from crossing the border for Ingress and egress from their place of Residence to attend their offices."

"The non-permitting of advocates to cross the border by the officials and authorities at the border of respondents no. 2 (UP government) and 3 (Haryana government) is in violation of fundamental rights under Article 19 (1)(d) (right to freedom of movement) and 301 (freedom of trade and commerce) of the Constitution and their action is highly arbitrary and illegal," the plea said.

It sought a direction to ensure the ingress and egress of the advocates from various towns in NCR to attend to their private offices at Delhi on the basis of their Bar identity cards.

Recently, the Delhi High Court Bar Association had also written a letter to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court to allow advocates from NCR region to cross Delhi border.