The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to enact a law to regulate the legal profession and put in place “floor and ceiling of advocates’ fees” .
Expressing concern regarding the rising commercialisation in the field, the Court said hefty lawyers’ fees was making it difficult for poorer sections of the society to access justice.
A bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and U U Lalit noted that it was time that the Centre intervened to bring about a legislation to protect the ethics of the legal profession and ensure that the poor are not prevented from benefitting from competent lawyers due to inadequate funds.
The bench referred to numerous judgements made by the apex court as well as Law Commission reports while passing its orders.
Legal Professionals Failing to “Uphold Ethics
The justices also censured the practice of lawyers requiring clients to pay a share of their pecuniary benefits received from the case adding that it construed “professional misconduct” against which action needed to be taken
The court noted that the legal profession was a “major component of the justice delivery system” and asked if justice is possible “with legal professionals failing to uphold professional ethics?”
The bench pointed out that the Law Commission had earlier recommended that a regulatory mechanism be put in place to maintain the “irreducible minimum standards of the profession for ensuring accountability of the legal profession (sic)”.
The commission had observed that exorbitant lawyers’ fees were acting as a barrier to justice adding that it was the Parliament’s duty to lay down the fees for services provided by the legal professionals .
Law Commission Has Recommended Regulation
In its 131st report, the Law Commission had said that the first step was to “prescribe floor and ceiling in fees.”
In a later report, the commission stated that it was the unethical practices of lawyers which was contributing to the huge pendency of cases in the system as such dilatory tactics were affecting fast closure of cases
The commission has also suggested that the constitution of Bar Council of India be modified keeping this in mind.
Government Has Failed To Act
The court pointed out that the government had neither passed a law to regularise the fee nor introduced a mechanism to address violation of ethics by legal professionals.
The bench further emphasised that that the “success of administration of justice” was largely dependent on appropriate regulation of the profession keeping in mind the mandate for access to justice as mentioned under Article 39A of the Constitution.
With the Centre failing to introduce a law to regulate the profession so far, the SC asked the government to take note of the recommendations of the commission, and take necessary decisions.