Reports

Welfare Fund  agitation  in Kerala.

Today Bharatheeya Abhibhasaka Parishad,Kerala is the central point of discussion in meetings of other Lawyers organisations and Advocates. It is a result of the agitation taken out by B.A.P against the anomalies in The Kerala Advocates Welfare Fund Act. The existing Act was amended on 10-06-2008 through an ordinance.Most of the amendments are against the interests of advocates.

The maximum benefit is limited up to Rs.5 lakh. But as there was no retrospective effect for the increase in the Welfare Fund limit, it will not be applicable for the existing members of the Fund. More over as per the amendment if the contribution is defaulted, the members have to pay the dues with 12 % interest. Though annual contribution by the members to the Fund was increased from 50% to 100%, there is no proporitional increase in the benefit. Another provision is that a member who die during the practice period is not eligible to get full amount. The maximum amount to be paid at the expiry of 35 years of service has been fixed at Rs. 5 lakh. But the members have to remit the subscription even after 35 years. If a member prematuarely claiming the fund owing to financial difficulties, he will be barred from continuing practice. Also there is no Govt contribution to the Fund. As per the new amendment if a member retire on or before the completion of 15 years of membership, he will get only the remitted amount with 6% interest.In the Fund medical benefit is limited to Rs.5000/- and the family members are not eligible for medical benefits.(Advocates clerks welfare fund provides Rs.30000/-as medical benefit to the members and their family members.) There is no provision in the fund to grant loanb to its members.

Against the amendment there arouse wide spread protest among the advocates. Immediately after the promulgation of the ordinance B.A.P state team discussed the matter and decided to agitate against the anomalies –

1.  Boards : As a beginning of agitation, flux boards and banners were erected in the court premises and  pamphlets indicating the anomalies in the amended Act were circulated

2.  Press meet: On 18-07-2008 a press meet was conducted at Thiruvananthapuram by the State President and General Secretary for attracting media attention.

3. Memorandum to Law Minister: On the very same day a memorandum was submitted to the State Law minister under the leadership of the State President and General Secretary demanding measures to solve the anomalies in the amended Act.The Law Minister assured  the deligation  that he will consider the recommendations suggested by B.A.P.

4. Secretariat Dharna. On 24-7-2008 a dharna was conducted in front of the Govt Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram. Though it was a working day a good number of advocates participated in the dharna.

4. Pamphlet distribution: A pamphlet deacribing the anomalies and suggestions was printed and distributed at all Bar Associations through out Kerala.It helpd to make  the advocates aware about the drawbacks in the welfare fund scheme.Also it helped to double the image of B.A.P.

5. Mass signature campagin : With alternative proposals and suggestions for solving the anomalies in the fund,  a mass signature campagins were conducted at all Bar Associations in Kerala. A large number of advocates irrespective of politics including seniors and juniors put their signatures in the memorandum. After compiling the signatures it was submitted to the Honourable Chief Minister of Kerala.

6. State Level Convention : It is first time in the history of  advocates community in Kerala, all the Lawyers organisations gathered together and that too  under the banner of B.A.P at Thiruvananthapuram on 5-11-2008 and demanded for a drastic change in the present Welfare Fund Act.To that extent a resolution was passed unanimously by the participants. The copy of the said resolution was sent to the Law Minister, Kerala Bar Council and all Bar Associations for their attention.

7.-Letter to Members of Legislative Assembly: With a demand of drastic change in the Welfare Fund Act and also pointing out the anomalies, a separat letter was prepared and issued to all M.L.A s of Assembly along with the copy of resolution passed by the Lawyers Convention. In the said letter it was requested to the M.L.A s that they should  take a positive stand in favour of the advocates community in the floor.

8.-Bar Council Meeting:- Only because of the sincere and effective effort taken out by B.A.P, Bar Council of Kerala called a meeting of Lawyers organisations to discuss about the anomalies in the scheme.B.A.P  also participated in the meeting. Though there was a move from the part of the Chairman to get ratification from the part of lawyers organisation to pass the present amendment scheme in the Assembly, representatives of B.A.P had made strong protest and only because of that Bar Council and Welfare Fund Trustee Committee withdrew from their attempt.

9.-Fasting in front of the Bar Council Office:- As a part of  the continuing agitation a dawn to dusk fasting was organised in front of the Bar Council office at Ernakulam on 13-03-2009.It created a serious discussion  among the Bar Council members and authorities about the need of the change in the Act.

10-Assembly March :- Though the session was on ,there was no move from the part of the Govt to present a fresh Bill in the present session. In order to raise protest against this and also to mount pressure up on the Govt an Assembly March was taken out on 17-07-2009 at Thiruvananthapuram. A large number of advocates participated in the march.

11- 24 hours fasting in front of secretariat.

As a part of continuing agitation 24 hours fasting was organised in front of secretariat 0n 29-01-2010. Fasting was inagurated by sri. O.Rajagopal, former Union Law Minister at10 am.Various leaders of different organisations visited the sathyagrahi’s.

Fasting was concluded at 10 am on 30-01-2010.

12. Book on welfare fund issue. A book containing the annomalies of welfare fund Act, the parent Act and its amendment, report of agitations taken out by B.A.P, suggessions made by B.A.P were published by B.A.P state committee. The book wes released on 14-03-2010 at Trissur by the former speaker of Kerala Assembly, sri. Therampil Ramakrishnan M.L.A.

Only because of the sincere effort taken by B.A.P there is every possibility to change the present Act by making it truly beneficial to Advocates. All the advocates in length and breadth of Kerala are appreciating B.A.P workers. Everybody knows that it is only B.A.Pwhich took up a common cause of advocates and are fighting for the same since June 2008 . The agitation attracted wide coverage of medias both print and visual.

B.A.P State Committee has decided to intensify the agitation till success.

B.A.P has placed the following proposals before the Welfare fund Trustee committee and State Govt for their consideration.

1.         Make suitable amendments to existing laws requiring remittance of 10% of the court fee collected through advocates in to the welfare fund.

2.          Make suitable amendments to existing laws requiring remittance of        50% of the amount imposed by the courts and Tribunals in to the welfare fund.

3.         Make those who are leaving the profession for taking up employement, eligible only for the subscription amount remitted by them with 6% interest.

4.         Make those who are leaving the profession before completing 5 years of practice, eligible only for the subscription amount remitted by them with 6% interest.

5.         Since at the inception of the fund, practice prior to 1980 was taken in to account,  the Govt of Kerala should  pay into the welfare fund an amount equal to the credit amount to those who have enrolled before 1980.

6.         Give option to join new scheme or retain the existing scheme. When new scheme is launched, do not take in to account practice rendered prior to 1980.

7.         Subject welfare fund membership to thorough scrutiny. Take appropriate and stern measures to remove from the welfare fund membership, those who are mainly engaged in other avocations, who are working abroad, and similarly situated persons.

8.         Remit the amount from sale of welfare fund stamps and annual subscription amount in to high yielding and safe fixed deposits.

9.         In case of serious diseases or disaability allow advocates to encash the entire W F benefits accrued and if they return to normal health later, allow them to continue to practice without any more W F benefits, but requiring them to affix W F stamps in vakalaths.

10.       Disburse the maximum W F benefits to the family of deceased advocates without taking in to account their actual years of practice.

11.       Increase medical allowance to Rs.50,000/- and make it available also to family members of the advocates undergoing medical treatement.

12.       Extend timely and financial help to advocates in distress and to their family members.

13.       Grant loans to needy advocates from WF as and when financial condition of the Fund improves.

14.       Make donations to WF exempt from income tax and collect donations.

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