Unpaid Work is Exploitation, Senior Lawyers Must Pay Minimum Stipend to Juniors: Madras HC

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Exploitation at no circumstances can be permitted nor be appreciated, court said

The Madras High Court has strongly emphasized the role of the Bar Councils in safeguarding the rights of young lawyers in the region. It stressed that it's crucial to prevent the exploitation of junior lawyers by their seniors, who sometimes demand work without providing fair compensation.

The bench of Justices S.M. Subramaniam and C. Kumarappan, highlighted that such exploitation cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. They emphasized that "it is the function of the Bar Council to ensure that the livelihood of these lawyers are protected by fixing minimum stipend to be paid in the event of engaging the services of the junior lawyers, who have enrolled".

To address this issue, the court has given Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTNP) counsel C.K. Chandrasekar until June 12 to consult with the council and establish guidelines. These guidelines will outline fair practices for established lawyers when hiring fresh graduates or junior lawyers to assist them.

The order was passed in a writ petition filed by one Farida Begam seeking direction to Puducherry Government and the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu to implement and enforce The Advocates' Welfare Fund Act, 2001 to Puducherry Union Territory. During the hearing, it became evident that similar issues existed in Tamil Nadu as well.

Recognizing the delays in fund allocation by the respective governments as a key factor in the scheme's ineffectiveness, the court took proactive steps. It included the State of Tamil Nadu as a party to the petition and granted both governments a week to respond.

Additionally, the court addressed the issue of junior lawyers not receiving stipends from their seniors. It urged the BCTNP to promptly address this matter by formulating necessary guidelines.

Case Title: Farida Begam v The Puducherry Government