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Stop press: Katju speaks sense, calls for accountability of lawyers via Consumer Protection Act

Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, argued in a blog post to “bring Indian lawyers under Consumer Protection Act, 1986":

By the decision of the Indian Supreme Court in Indian Medical Association vs. VP Shantha, AIR 1996 SC 550, doctors were brought under the purview of the Indian Consumer Protection Act as they were rendering services. Hence if a doctor commits medical negligence he can be held liable and ordered to pay damages to the patient.

By the same logic lawyers should also be brought under the purview of the Act as they are also rendering services. This will bring accountability into the legal profession in India, but the lawyers stoutly oppose this.

At present the unfortunate situation is that while there are many upright lawyers, increasingly a large number of lawyers are resorting to unethical practices, bringing a bad name to what was supposed to be a noble profession. Often to extract as much money as they can many lawyers indulge in all kinds of wrong practices like deliberately prolonging a case so as to extract more money out of the client. If there is nothing in a case a lawyer should frankly say so to the client, but how many lawyers do that ? Very few lawyers nowadays tell the client frankly not to waste money in a useless litigation, and most accept briefs however frivolous to make money. Some lawyers are even alleged to have colluded with the opposite party.

Many lawyers, particularly of the Supreme Court, charge totally exorbitant and unjustified fees, some charging upto Rs.30 lacs for one day’s appearance. A limit must be placed on lawyers fees by suitable legislation. Lawyers cannot be allowed to be looters.

The Bar Councils have proved to be ineffective in checking professional misconduct by lawyers. The Consumer Protection Act will be much more effective, and put some fear into lawyers indulging in wrong practices.

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