A plea has been filed in the Kerala praying that advocates be declared as essential service workers amid the ongoing restrictions on work and movement within the state of Kerala.
The plea, filed by the All India Association of Jurists and a lawyer, through Advocates John Mani V, Sriram Parakkat, Jayant S, Jackson Johny, Sethulakshmi KK, Gayathri Menon and Xavier Thomas V T urges for a designation of advocates as essential service workers.
The plea avers that lawyers play a key role in the administration of justice and facilitate access to justice, which is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
"The continuous functioning of the Judiciary cannot be put to rest and therefore, it has to function at all times with the participation of the advocates and hence by its very nature services rendered by Advocates, Advocates Clerks and their offices is an essential service as the same caters to the citizens fundamental right to access to justice through an Advocate enshrined under Article 14, 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution," the petition stresses.
Stating that their representations to the effect went unheeded, the plea takes issue with the fact that print and electronic media have been included within the category of essential service workers.
"The Petitioners are also aggrieved by apparent arbitrary discrimination being done by the 1st and 2nd respondents (state) against the entire fraternity of legal profession by not including them in the category of essential service, whereas the respondents have included even print and electronic media in the category permitted to function during the Covid pandemic."
Additionally, the State's failure to allow Advocates the designation of essential service workers complicates commute to and from courts, the petition narrates, especially where lawyer did not own vehicles.
"This problem is faced by thousands of Advocates who do not have their own vehicles and are not in bus zone or are required to change buses to reach Court which is also a problem as time constraint for legal profession are of outmost importance...The petitioners seeks a direction permitting the Advocates to travel by any means of transportation to reach their offices and court premises."
Citing an order of the Delhi High Court, the petition seeks a similar declaration for lawyers in Kerala.
The plea therefore prays for these directions to the state:
· to include advocates, advocate clerks and their offices and moving court through an advocate as an essential service,
· not to restrict the movement of advocates, advocate clerks travelling to their offices, various courts, tribunals and other judicial and quasi-judicial forums to conduct their case,
· to allow advocates to function their offices since they cater to a citizen's fundamental right to access justice,
· to make suitable arrangements for the smooth and continuous functioning of courts, tribunals and other judicial and quasi-judicial forums and not to restrict the movements of the public seeking access to justice,
· a declaration that the right to access to justice through an advocate as a fundamental right enshrined under Article 14, 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution.