The Bar Council of India (BCI) has written a letter to the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan, expressing their "deep anguish and resentment " against the proposal of the government to bring advocates within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act.
Calling the proposal "draconian", the BCI said that there is no requirement of making the Consumer Protection Act applicable to advocates.
"Lawyers not part of trade"
In the letter, BCI chairman, Manan Kumar Mishra, argued that the profession of lawyers is not a part of any trade and that it is an activity in the assistance of the justice administration system.
"...Advocates' profession is not part of any trades, commerce or industry. It's not even a service within the ambit of Service Tax Act and is merely an activity in aid and assistance of the justice administration system."
Enough safeguards for litigants
Further emphasising why lawyers do not need to be brought under the Consumer Protection Act, Mishra said that there already exists Advocate Act, 1961, to provide safeguards for litigants.
He said that "in case of any allegation of misconduct against advocates, an effective mechanism is provided in section 35 of the Advocate Act to take action against an advocate if found guilty guilty".
Elaborating about strict preventive measures under the Advocate Act, BCI chairman said, "if an advocate is found involved in an act of misconduct may even be suspended from the roll of Advocates. BCI has taken actions against erring advocates in past and present", he said.
"Will undermine the legal profession":
Pointing drawbacks of including lawyers under the prosed Consumer Act, BCI in the letter said that inclusion will undermine the legal profession
"Bring advocates under Consumer Protection Act will l hamper professional activities and encourage frivolous complaints that will entail appearing and fighting litigation in consumer court rather than pursuing the noble cause of facilitating the administration of justice," BCI said in the letter.
Protest if proposal not withdrawn:
Requesting the government to withdraw the proposal, failing which, BCI said, the "entire advocates fraternity of the country will be left with no option but to come on the roads."
What is the Consumer Protection Act and why the government plans to bring lawyers under its ambit?
Behind all goods and services provided in the market in return for money is the underlying motive of maximising profit. Sometimes, business uses unfair and misleading practices to increase revenues causing exploitation of consumers. In order to safeguard consumers in such cases, the Consumer Protect Act provides avenues where a disgruntled consumer can lodge a case against the business and claim compensation.
Why bring advocates under the Consumer Protection Act:
The government's proposal to bring lawyers under purview essentially sees the service by the lawyers to their clients falling under a similar category. It intends to provide lawyers' clients with a way to sue them in the Consumer Courts if there is an issue and they feel cheated by the lawyers.
Rejecting this proposal of the government, the lawyers' fraternity opines that a lawyer merely exercises the power of attorney given by the client to act on his/her behalf. However, the result of any case is not solely based upon the skill of the advocate. There are several other factors that determine the outcome of any case including facts, witnesses, etc.
Thus, they argue that charging or suing lawyers in case of loss in any case and demand compensation from the lawyers is fallacious.