Though the profession of Lawyers has a known recorded history of more than 300 years, there was no scheme of pension, welfare fund or retirement benefits. Lawyers have remained a most unorganized sector . Probably except individual LIC polices there was no other plan savings for the family. Even otherwise not even 10% of lawyers are found to have made wise investments during their good periods. It was so because all along the lawyers came from traditional agricultural families and the professional income was only additional. But the scenario has changed entirely for the last 50 years where the lawyers are dependent on the profession only for their livelihood and family has no other source to fall back.
It is only in 1980 onwards feeble efforts were undertaken to provide some assistance to the family of a lawyer on his death. In the State of Uttar Pradesh, Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1974 was enacted w.e.f. 17.4.1974. It was followed by enactments in the following States.
In Karnataka, Karnataka Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1983 ( Act 2/1985) was brought into force w.e.f. 1.11.1986. It provided for Voluntary membership. Admission fee was Rs. 200/-.
Subscription of Rs. 50/- per annum for advocates below 15 years standing and Rs. 100/- per annum for advocates above 15 years standing. One Welfare Fund stamp of the value of Rs. 2/- was to be affixed on vakalth by such advocates who were members of the Welfare Fund. The maximum amount payable on death / cessation of practice was Rs. 30,000/- in the case of a member who has put in a practice of 30 years and above. The schedule to the Act provided for payment in a decreasing order at the rate of Rs. 1,000/- for every completed year of practice. Rules also provided for medical benefit of Rs. 2,500/- in case of serious ailments.
Major changes were made by way of amendment by Act 21/93 w.e.f. 2.4.1997 and Act 6/96 w.e.f. 2.4.1997.
Salient features of the Amendment are as follows :-
1. Welfare Fund amount payable is enhanced to Rs. 50,000/- from Rs. 30,000/- irrespective of number of years of practice put in except for some categories where entitlement was Rs. 1,000/- for each completed year of practice subject to maximum of Rs. 50,000/-.
2. Annual subscription deleted.
3. Stamp of the value of Rs. 5/- to be affixed on vakalath by all the advocate whether they are the members to the fund or not. Thus in effect membership is not optional.
4. Admission fee enhanced to Rs. 1,000/-. Members to the Fund under earlier scheme were required to pay Rs. 800/- only for admission.
5. Medical benefit under the Rules was enhanced to Rs. 5,000/- from Rs. 2,500/- per annum.
6. Senior Advocates to pay Rs. 2,500/- per annum.
7. Sec. 26A was introduced by the Government providing for Advocates Family Welfare Fund. Government is required to contribute to this Fund and the provision is subject to framing of Rules. Government has not framed Rules and has not made contribution till this date. Thus the provisions of Sec. 26-A providing for separate Family Welfare Fund has not become operational.
Further major changes were made by amendment by Act 18/2002 w.e.f. 15.4.2005 and Act 15/2005 w.e.f. 1.6.2005.
Salient features of Amendment under Act 18/2002 and Act 15/2005 are as follows :
1. Admission fee enhanced to Rs. 2,000/- and admission to Fund to be made within one month of enrollment.
2. Welfare Fund to be paid on death / cessation of practice enhanced to Rs. 1,50,000/- from Rs. 50,000/-.
3. Stamps of the value of Rs. 10/- to be affixed on vakalath.
4. Stamp of the value of Rs. 5/- to be affixed on every interlocutory application filed in any proceeding or case.
5. Subscription of Rs. 500/0 for every 5 years from the date of admission to fund – with a default clause. 6. Some category of members such as Advocates starting practice after retirement from service or enrolled after the age of 60 years or admitted to Fund after the age of 40 years and advocates seeking voluntary retirement not entitled for full amount of Rs. 1,50,000/- but will be entitled for an amount calculated at the rate of Rs. 3,000/- for every completed year of practice subject to maximum of Rs. 1,50,000/-.
It is also provided that such of the advocates who were member to the fund on payment of Rs. 200/- under the voluntary scheme prior to 2.4.1997 will be paid on amount of Rs. 30,000/- on death / cessation of practice though they have not become the regular members to the Fund after the Amendment by Act 21/93 and Act 6/96 w.e.f. 2.4.1997.
7. Provisions pertaining to medical benefit of Rs. 5,000/- deleted. Different fresh scheme regarding medical benefit is under consideration.
Now, further proposal for enhancement of Welfare Fund three lakhs on slab basis is under consideration.
The Welfare Fund is a fund constituted by the Government under Section 3 of the Act. It is a statutory Trust. The fund is managed by a Trustee Committee constituted under Sec. 4 of the Act. Trustee committee consists of :
1. Chairman of the Bar Council – Ex-officio –Chairman
2. Vice-Chairman of the Bar Council – Treasurer
3. Three members nominated by the Bar Council
4. Two members nominated by the Government
5. Advocate General
6. Law Secretary.
7. Secretary of the Bar Council – Ex-officio member
The Bar Council has no control over the Welfare Fund. The amount in the Welfare Fund is disbursed on settlement of claim by orders of the Trustee Committee. All the amounts such as Admission Fee, Stamp Sales etc., are directly credited to Welfare Fund Account.