How Can Lawyers and Advocates help people in the COVID 19 pandemic?

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The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the lives of millions around the globe in ways which consist of increasing unemployment, deaths, economic problems, dying businesses and let’s not forget the mental trauma family members have to go through when a member tests positive for Covid-19. India, however, has been one of the worst affected countries with total cases rising to 27 million and deaths nearing 3.10 lakh in 2021. The second wave in India has affected more lives than the first wave, however economically, the initial wave was more traumatic. Before answering the question of how can Lawyers and Advocates help people, it is necessary to understand the difference between the two terms. While lawyer is a general term used to describe a professional who has attended law school and obtained a Bachelor of Law degree, Advocate refers to a specialist in law who can represent clients in courts.

During the time of such a massive pandemic, there are various ways through which lawyers can assist and help people who are suffering. Some of the ways of helping are by providing free legal aid and assistance to people, wealthy lawyers can also provide medical assistance to people, help the government in meeting the demands of oxygen and other medicines. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a nation- wide lockdown in 2020 which led to a huge increase in demand for online services, almost every service had to be shifted to online ways which in turn led to a sore rise in online scams. Advocates can help affected people fight these scams and put an end to all these scams once and for all. Other than these, advocates can assist small lawyers in many ways including providing jobs, internships, financial assistance etc. Another very important help which can be provided is legal knowledge and knowledge in general, lawyers can always impart knowledge onto people, it can be legal as well as general knowledge. 

A few of the aforementioned assistances and helps were provided by various NGOs, lawyers and advocates and The Bar Council of Delhi. In April 2020, The Bar Council Of Delhi, decided to provide  financial assistance to needy advocates, the BCD promised to pay Rs. 5000 to each advocate. Not only BCD, but also Amarjit Singh Chandiok and N Hariharan, Senior Advocates, contributed Rs. 5,00,000 for financial assistance. NALSA which is National Legal Service Authority , was established under section 3 of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987,  also provided legal assistance to the needy, NALSA helped approximately 11,000 prisoners under trial to be released from jail in 2020. NALSA also people with food and helped poor migrant workers who were stranded without any place to go.  

Due to increase in the use of  the internet, there was a stark increase in cyber crimes and online frauds too. Online fraud is a fraud which is committed over and using the internet , it can be financial or identity fraud. Online fraud ranges from viruses that attack computers with the goal of retrieving personal information, to email schemes that lure victims into wiring money to fraudulent sources, to phishing emails that purport to be from official entities that solicit personal information from victims to be used to commit identity theft, to fraud on online auction sites where perpetrators sell fictional goods.  The methods used by perpetrators of online fraud are constantly evolving. The law or legislation which prescribes the punishment for online frauds is the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Indian Penal Code, 1860.  Some parallel provisions of the IPC, 1860 and IT Act, 2000 are-

  1. Hacking and Data Theft- Sections 43 and 66 of the IT act penalize a number of activities ranging from hacking into a computer network, data theft, introducing and spreading viruses through computer networks, damaging computers or computer networks, disrupting any computer or computer system or computer network, denying an authorized person access to a computer or computer network, damaging or destroying information residing in a computer etc.  The maximum penalty prescribed under these sections are imprisonment for upto 3 years or fine upto Rs. 5,00,000 or both.
  1. Section 378 of the IPC relates to movable property and hence it also applies to theft of any data, the punishment under this section is also imprisonment upto 3 years or fine or both.
  1. Section 424 and 425 of the IPC deal with fraudulent concealment or removal of property and mischief respectively and these sections also apply to data theft and damaging computer systems.
  1. Section 65 of the IT act also deals with tampering with computer source documents, Section 66E deals with violation of privacy, the punishment under section 65 is imprisonment upto 3 years or fine upto Rs. 3,00,000 or both and under section 66E imprisonment upto 3 years or fine upto Rs. 2,00,000 or both.
  1. Section 43(H) read with Section 66 of the act deals with penalty of tampering of computer system, computer or a computer network.
  1. Sections 67, 67A and 67B deal with punishment for publishing or transmitting  in the electronic form the following-
  1. Obscene Material
  2. Material consisting sexually explicit act
  3. Material depicting children in sexually explicit act.
  1. The provisions of sections 292 and 294 of IPC are also applicable to the offences of the nature as prescribed in sections 67, 67A and 67B.
  1. The provisions of sections of 463, 465 and 468 of IPC deal with forgery for the purpose of  cheating is also applicable to identity theft.

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