Advocates for consumer court from the best Law firms in Chennai
Advocates for consumer court from the best Law firms in Chennai

Lawyers and the Consumer Protection Act: Arguments Before the Supreme Court

28 Feb 2024: The Supreme Court of India is currently hearing a case that could have a significant impact on the legal profession in the country. The case concerns the question of whether lawyers can be held liable under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.

Arguments Against Including Lawyers Under the Consumer Protection Act

Lawyers and the Consumer Protection Act: Arguments Before the Supreme Court

SCAORA, intervening in the case, argues against lawyers’ inclusion under the Consumer Protection Act. They emphasize lawyers’ exemption from such regulatory measures. They have presented four main arguments in support of this position:

  • Limited Control Over Environment: Lawyers have limited control over the environment in which they render services. Unlike doctors who control factors like the operating theatre, lawyers are controlled by the court. Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, representing SCAORA, argues that due to this lack of control, assessing lawyers solely based on outcomes isn’t appropriate.
  • No Standard of Care: Gupta highlights the absence of a universal standard of care in law, unlike medicine. He emphasizes the diversity in advocacy styles among lawyers, making a uniform standard impractical.
  • Conflict of Duties: A lawyer has four important duties: to their client, the court, the opposing party, and the public. These duties can sometimes conflict with each other. For example, a lawyer may have a duty to their client to pursue a certain argument, but that argument might also be disrespectful to the opposing party. In such cases, the lawyer must decide which duty takes priority.
  • Ethical Considerations: Ethical considerations bind lawyers, ensuring the fair administration of justice in legal proceedings. These guidelines uphold professional integrity and accountability. Gupta argues that these ethical considerations are more important than the Consumer Protection Act in regulating the conduct of lawyers. He illustrates how lawyers may ethically present an overruled judgment, prioritizing transparency over client interests. The example underscores ethical dilemmas inherent in legal practice.

Arguments for Including Lawyers Under the Consumer Protection Act

Justice Trivedi, one of the judges hearing the case, has raised some questions about SCAORA’s arguments. For example, she has asked if a lawyer who fails to mention in their pleadings that the client is ready to perform their part of a contract is negligent. She has also questioned whether a lawyer who is repeatedly absent from court proceedings is providing a deficient service.

Re-Examining the Shanta Case

The case arguments spotlight the 2007 NCDRC judgment, dubbed the “Shanta Case,” holding lawyers accountable under the Consumer Protection Act. SCAORA contends that certain aspects of the Shanta case warrant reevaluation, including its expansive definition of “service.” Furthermore, they assert that the Shanta case fails to sufficiently tackle the practical challenges associated with subjecting lawyers to the Consumer Protection Act.

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The Supreme Court has not yet issued a decision in this case. The hearing is expected to continue tomorrow. The outcome of this case holds considerable importance for the legal profession in India. Additionally, it may establish precedents internationally.