MSME benefits for lawyers? No way, says Court

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on July 30, 2020

Delhi HC dismisses PIL seeking benefits for advocates under MSME Act

No doubt lawyers are enterprising, but when one of them wanted advocates to be classified as an enterprise under the MSME Act, the Bench gave him an earful.

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court declined to entertain Abhijit Mishra’s public interest litigation (PIL), which wanted advocates included in the definition of ‘professionals’ under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act. Mishra is a lawyer who has majored in financial economics.

The Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan sternly noted that PILs should be for the benefit of a class of persons that are “unable to access the courts, e.g., the poorest of the poor, illiterates, children,” or “people who may be handicapped by ignorance, indigence, illiteracy or lack of understanding of the law.”

Noting that advocates were capable enough to approach courts on their own, if aggrieved, the Delhi High Court dismissed the plea. Mishra had made a submission before the court in person and said his PIL was for the welfare of advocates as a class.

Earlier ‘causes’

The serial PIL filer had earlier asked courts to direct the Department of Financial Services to develop banking products and schemes for advocates in consultation with the Bar Council of India. He had also wanted the Reserve Bank of India to instruct banks to extend collateral-free loans, credit facilities and other schemes to the lawyer community.

With judicial activities affected by the pandemic, lawyers have been repeatedly pressing for financial assistance at various forums. In fact, recently, two pleas were filed before the Supreme Court. The first asked for non-payment of rent for professional premises rented by advocates not to be made a ground for eviction during lockdown. The second wanted the government to formulate a uniform welfare scheme for lawyers across the country. Both were dismissed.

With the dismissal of Mishra’s PIL, it looks unlikely that lawyers can gain access to contingency funds like the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme, which grants collateral-free loans of up to ₹5 crore and was announced to provide relief to Covid-hit MSMEs. Clearly, the High Court thought the lawyers were exceeding their brief.

Published on July 30, 2020

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