Saturday, May 25th, 2024

Lawyers will not be prosecuted for negligence in service in consumer court: Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that under the Consumer Protection Act, a lawyer cannot be held responsible for negligence in service. The Supreme Court has made it clear that lawyers cannot be sued in the consumer court for negligence in service. A bench led by Justice Bela M Trivedi of the Supreme Court said that the legal profession is a different kind of profession and its work is of a special nature and it cannot be compared with any other professions. Lawyers have to respect the autonomy of their clients and that is why the control of the lawyers lies largely with their clients. The court said that this service is outside the scope of the Consumer Protection Act.

In fact, the National Consumer Court (NCDRC) had said in a 2007 judgment that lawyers and their services are within its purview under the Consumer Protection Act. This decision was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Bar Council of India, Delhi High Court Bar Association and Bar of Indian Lawyers and others. The Supreme Court has given its decision after hearing the said petition and the decision of the National Consumer Court has been overturned by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has said that lawyers cannot be held responsible for negligence in service within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act 1986. The court has said that people involved in the profession of advocacy are different from other businesses. The Supreme Court has made it clear that a case filed against lawyers in the Consumer Court for negligence in service is not acceptable. The Supreme Court bench of Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mittal overturned the 2007 decision of the National Consumer Forum. The National Consumer Forum had brought the services of lawyers within the scope of services provided under the Consumer Protection Act.
The Supreme Court said in the decision that the profession of lawyers is special. It requires high level education. Also, excellent skills and mental hard work are required. Many factors work for the success of lawyers and many factors are not under their control. In such a situation, the profession related to advocacy cannot be compared with businessman and other professions. The Supreme Court also said that there is a need to re-look at the decision given in the Indian Medical Association vs VP Shanta case. In that decision it was said that doctors and people associated with medical profession are under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. The Supreme Court has urged the Chief Justice that the VP Shanta case should be referred to a larger bench to look again.
The Supreme Court said that the profession of lawyers is different. Their role is different and cannot be compared with other professions. The relationship between a lawyer and his client is of a different kind. The lawyer always respects the autonomy of the client and acts as per the instructions of the client. The lawyer is bound by the client’s instructions. In such a situation, whatever duty he performs after receiving money from the client, he does it as per the instructions of the client.

The National Consumer Court had considered lawyers within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act.
In fact, the National Consumer Forum had said in 2007 that the services provided by lawyers are covered under Section 2 of the Consumer Protection Act. Service is defined in this section. The Consumer Court had said that it is not the responsibility of the lawyer to ensure that the judgment comes in his favor because it is not in his hands. But if there is any negligence in the service for which he has taken fees, then it will come under the purview of the Act.

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