Supreme Court calls for legislative changes to check ‘astronomical’ fees charged by lawyers

Supreme Court: In the matter where it was brought to the Court’s notice that an advocate had demanded 16% of the amount received by the client in a Motor Vehicle accident claim as fee, the bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit, JJ asked the Government to take cognizance of the issue of introducing requisite legislative changes for an effective regulatory mechanism to check violation of professional ethics and also to ensure access to legal services which is major component of access to justice mandated under Article 39A of the Constitution.

The Court referred to the 131st Report of the Law Commission of India, wherein it was recommended that maintenance of irreducible minimum standards of the profession was a must for ensuring accountability of the legal profession. While considering the mounting cost of litigation, it was observed in the report that fee charged by some senior advocates were astronomical in character and that it was the duty of the Parliament to prescribe fee for services rendered by members of the legal profession. It suggested that first step should be taken to prescribe floor and ceiling in fees.

Noticing that though the 131st Report was submitted in the year 1988, no effective law has been enacted to regularize the fee or for providing the public-sector services to utmost needy litigants without any fee or at standardized fee, the Court said:

“Mandate for the Bench and the bar is to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to the victim of justice and to protect their rights. The legal system must continue to serve the victims of injustice.”

The Court also took note of the 266th Report submitted in the light of the decision in Mahipal Singh Rana v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2016) 8 SCC 335, which observed that the conduct of members of the legal profession who do not follow ethics contributes to the pendency of cases owing to the dilatory tactics such as unjustified strikes, seeking adjournments on unjustified grounds, etc. The Report said that there was dire necessity of reviewing regulatory mechanism not only in the matter of discipline and misconduct but also in other areas. It was suggested that constitution of the Bar Council required a change for which an Amendment Bill was also recommended. [B. Sunitha v. State of Telengana, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1412, decided on 05.12.2017]

One comment

  • This kind of step might jeopardize and complicate the relations between lawyers and litigants which is grounded and founded on a platform of trust and confidence interwoven with morals, ethics and professionalism .

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