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  India   All India  15 May 2024  Consumer law won’t cover lawyers: SC

Consumer law won’t cover lawyers: SC

Published : May 15, 2024, 1:55 am IST
Updated : May 15, 2024, 1:55 am IST

The Act is to protect consumers from unethical business practices

Supreme Court of India. (AP)
 Supreme Court of India. (AP)

New Delhi: In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that lawyers did not come under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act and hence could not be tried for "deficiency in service" before consumer courts.

A bench of Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal said the legal profession is ‘sui generis’ (of its own kind) and the nature of work was specialised and could not be compared with other professions.

The top court said the very purpose and object of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 as re-enacted in 2019 was to provide protection to consumers from unfair trade practices and unethical business practices. The legislature never intended to include either the professions or the services rendered by professionals within the purview of the Act.

The apex court said: "A service hired or availed of an advocate is a service under 'a contract of personal service', and therefore would fall within the exclusionary part of the definition of 'service' contained in Section 2 (42) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. A complaint alleging 'deficiency in service' against advocates practising the legal profession would not be maintainable under the Consumer Protection Act , 2019."

The top court’s judgment came on a plea filed by the bar bodies and other individuals challenging a 2007 verdict of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which has ruled that advocates and their services came under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and that advocates could be sued for deficiency of service.

The apex court said that the object of the Consumer Protection Act was to provide to the consumers timely and effective administration and settlement of their disputes.

The bench said: "If the services provided by all the professionals are also brought within the purview of the Act, there would be a flood… of litigations in the commissions/forums established under the Act, particularly because the remedy provided under the Act is inexpensive and summary in nature.”

The apex court said, "It cannot be gainsaid that the role of advocates is indispensable in the justice delivery system. An evolution of jurisprudence to keep our Constitution vibrant is possible only with the positive contribution of the advocates. The advocates are expected to be fearless and independent for protecting the rights of citizens, for upholding the Rule of law and also for protecting the independence of (the) judiciary.”

"People repose immense faith in the Judiciary, and the Bar being an integral part of the judicial system has been assigned a very crucial role for preserving the independence of the judiciary, and in turn the very democratic set up of the nation. The advocates are perceived to be the intellectuals amongst the elites and social activists amongst the downtrodden," it said.

That is the reason they are expected to act according to the principles of ‘uberrima fides’ —the utmost good faith, integrity, fairness and loyalty — while handling legal proceedings of the client, it added.

The top court said, "The legal profession is different from the other professions also for the reason that what the advocates do, affects not only an individual but the entire administration of justice, which is the foundation of the civilised society. It must be remembered that the legal profession is a solemn and serious profession."

Being a responsible officer of the court and an important adjunct of the administration of justice, an advocate owed his duty not only to his client but also to the court as well as to the opposite side, it said.

Tags: supreme court of india, consumer protection act, advocates
Location: India, Delhi