Legal Profession Not A Trade Or Commercial Activity: BCD Writes to Consumer Affairs minister

Legal Profession Not A Trade Or Commercial Activity: BCD Writes to Consumer Affairs minister

Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) Chairman KC Mittal wrote to Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, opposing the framing of rules to include lawyers under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act 2012.

Prior Facts:

As per the information given in a written reply by the Minister of State for Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Shri Danve Raosaheb Dadarao in Rajya Sabha on February 07, 2020, published by the Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution on 07-February-2020 18:02 IST, it was stated that, “Services of Doctors and Lawyers come under Consumer Protection Act”.

The Minister explained that, As per the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, “service” means service of any description which is made available to potential users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, telecom, boarding or lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal services.

Back in 2018, One Devender Kumar Gandhi had filed a complaint before District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum for deficiency of service against his lawyer M Mathai. The district forum on June 1, 2000, held the lawyer liable and ordered him to pay Rs 3,000 as compensation for mental agony and another Rs 1,000 as cost. On appeal in the State Commission, the order of the District forum was set aside, however when the complainant filed appeal against the order of State Commission, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) gave its verdict in favour of complainant and held that if there was deficiency in service rendered by lawyers, complaint under Consumer Protection Act was maintainable against them. The Supreme Court then stayed the order of the NCDRC. The Then order of the Supreme Court was a big relief for millions of Advocates practicing across the nation.

Key Features:

  • Mittal in the letter stated that, “As per the information available, your ministry is framing rules under the Act and wants to surreptitiously include the lawyers under the proposed rules so as to bring the lawyers across the country within the jurisdiction of Consumer Redressal Forum.”
  • He said, “This is highly deplorable and the lawyers across the country will never accept their inclusion within the definition of the provisions of Consumer Protection Act”.
  • He stated that the legal profession is an integral part of the justice delivery system and is not a commercial or trade activity, and the legal professional cannot be included for any purpose under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 “or the rules as is being contemplated”.
  • He added that, “We have serious objection to it and request you not to proceed with any such proposal of inclusion of lawyers within the definition of Services under the said Act or the rules. However, if any such step is pursued further, the matter can be taken by the entire legal community across the country to take a final view in the matter”.
  • He concluded the letter by saying that, “We hope, you would kindly drop bringing any such provision to include lawyers within the definition of Consumer Protection Act 2019 or the rules to be made there-under”.
  • In 2018, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India while giving relief to millions of Lawyer across stayed a ruling of Apex Consumer Forum which holds that services given by an Advocate to his clients during litigation fall under the ambit of consumer protection act.
  • In 2018, A Bench comprising Justices L S Panta and B Sudershan Reddy stayed the ruling of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), which was challenged by a large number of advocate bodies after lawyers raised a hue and cry over the prospect of being sued by clients for deficient service.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference:

  • Inputs from the Letter send by Mr. K.C. Mittal, Chairman of the Bar Council of Delhi to Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Ref. No. 514/SF/2020, dated March 09, 2020.
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Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.