Case BriefsSupreme Court

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]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Showing concern over the urgent need to review the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961 dealing with regulatory mechanism for the legal profession and other incidental issues, the Court asked the Law Commission of India to go into all relevant aspects in consultation with all concerned at an early date and the Government of India to take further appropriate steps in the light of report of the Law Commission within six months thereafter.

The 3-judge bench of A.R. Dave, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel, JJ. took note of the provision under Section 24A which debars a convicted person from being enrolled applies to an advocate on the rolls of the Bar Council for a period of two years and said that a person convicted of even a most heinous offence is eligible to be enrolled as an advocate after expiry of two years from expiry of his sentence.

The Court was hearing the appeal in a decade old matter where the appellant was held guilty by the Allahabad High Court of Criminal Contempt for intimidating and threatening a Civil Judge and was directed not to enter the court premises. The Court had issued notice to the Bar Council of India and the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to initiate appropriate proceedings against the appellant for professional misconduct, however, no action has been taken by the Bar Council. In view of such failure of the statutory obligation of the Bar Council of the State of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Bar Council of India, the Court held that suo moto action can be taken under the Advocates Act in view of proved misconduct calling for disciplinary action. The Court further added that by virtue of statutory appellate power under Section 38 of the Advocates Act High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution in appropriate cases on failure of the Bar Council can also take action after its attention is invited to the misconduct. [Mahipal Singh Rana v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 663, decided on 05.07.2016]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Dismissing the appeals, the bench of M.Y. Eqbal and R. Banumathi, JJ held that the retired officials who joined legal profession constitute a separate class and the disentitlement of the benefit of lump sum welfare fund under the Tamil Nadu Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1987 to this group of advocates cannot be said to be unreasonable.

The Court further said that the retired employees have the substantial retiral benefits, gratuity apart from receiving pension. Some amount of financial stability is ensured in the form of pension and terminal benefits to these advocates who joined law profession after retirement. Making them eligible for lump sum welfare fund under the Act would actually amount to double benefit to them placed better than their counter part lawyers who struggle through difficult times.

The class of lawyers who choose this profession as the sole means of their livelihood are the real deservers because they stand difficult times in the profession and. also because they form a separate class from that of retired persons. The retired officials who joined legal profession constitute a separate class and so this distinction is not arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Article 14. Therefore, the disentitlement of the benefit of lump sum welfare fund to this group of advocates cannot be said to be unreasonable. 

Advocates Welfare Fund is enacted with the object of providing social security in the form of financial assistance to juniors and the welfare scheme for indigent or disabled advocates. As the appellants are already in receipt of pension from their employers so there is no arbitrariness in excluding them from the applicability of Bihar State AdvocatesWelfare Fund Act 1983.S.Seshachalam v. Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, 2014 SCC OnLine SC 1011, decided on 16-12-2014