Madras High Court Instructs Bar To Mandate Stipend For Junior Lawyers, Says 'Can't Expect Junior Lawyers To Work Without Pay'

Towards a positive initiative, the Madras High Court has instructed the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to mandate that all bar associations provide a minimum stipend of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 to junior lawyers practicing in the state.  

Towards a positive initiative, the Madras High Court has instructed the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to mandate that all bar associations provide a minimum stipend of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 to junior lawyers practicing in the state.

Justices SM Subramaniam and C Kumarappan emphasized the importance of creating a supportive environment for young lawyers, noting that they should not endure the hardships faced by previous generations. The court stated that it is unacceptable to expect young lawyers to work without adequate compensation, asserting that the challenges faced by junior lawyers should not be seen as an inherent part of the legal profession.

“Young lawyers should not have to experience the struggles we face. It is our responsibility to establish a strong support system for them. Article 21 applies to young lawyers as well. Expecting them to work without pay is both unacceptable and degrading,” the court declared.

The court set a minimum stipend of Rs 20,000 for junior lawyers practicing in Chennai, Madurai, and Coimbatore, and Rs 15,000 for those in other districts. These amounts were determined based on the basic cost of living and the state’s cost index. The court also tasked the bar council with defining the criteria for who qualifies as a “young lawyer.”

Furthermore, the court stipulated that the monthly stipend should be paid regardless of the lawyer’s gender identity, stressing the importance of addressing gender pay disparities and including transgender individuals in the stipend scheme.

This directive came in response to a plea seeking the implementation and enforcement of The Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act, 2001, in the Puducherry Union. Previously, the court had recommended that the bar council establish a minimum stipend to safeguard junior lawyers’ livelihoods.