by Ishaan Seth
The Kerala High Court has asked the Central Government to file a formal response on whether lawyers can be allowed to move during the COVID-19, in genuine cases for the purpose of filing and accessing resources in their offices, considering that access to justice is considered an important right.
This request of movement was moved by the Kerala High Court Advocates Association. Appearing for the Association, Advocate Lakshmi Narayan Prabhu told the court that lawyers should be allowed to move during the lockdown and lawyers’ offices should be allowed to function with minimal staff. He further added that lawyers were an indispensable part of the justice delivery system and that they were ready to comply with any conditions imposed by the Court if their movement is allowed for such necessary purposes.
In response, Additional Advocate General Ranjith Thampan told the Court that it was not up to Kerala State Government to decide upon the issue and that State would have to comply with the directives of the Central Government and the National Disaster Management Authority.
The Bench, in turn, took note of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association’s submissions that the resources required by lawyers to work lay in their offices. The Central Government Counsel, Advocate Jaishankar V Nair, however, submitted that there are certain difficulties in allowing the movement of lawyers during the lockdown. One of the reasons he gave that if an exemption is given to lawyers, then exemption for professionals from other sectors may also have to be considered.
In conclusion, the Bench directed that the Central Government should file a formal response on this issue, particularly from the angle of the right to access to justice. The matter will be taken up next on April 24, 2020.