On March 08, 2020, a letter was written by the Bar Council of Delhi to the Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan expressing dissent towards the contemplation of the Ministry to include ‘lawyers’ within the definition of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (Act).
“The legal profession is an integral part of justice delivery system and is not a commercial or trade activity and the legal profession cannot be included for any purpose under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 or the rules as being contemplated” stated the letter penned down by the Bar Council of Delhi.
The co-chairman of Delhi Bar Council, Sanjay Rathi stated that "This all started with the case Indian Medical Association v. VP Shanta, where the court declared the medical practitioners were subject to the rules and mechanisms of CPA which rose the question, ‘if doctors can be made liable under the CPA, why not lawyers?”.
Further, he added that "A Lawyer, unlike other professionals, is placed in a very peculiar position while rendering legal services. An architect or a doctor is pure ‘client servicing’ while on the other hand, it is not possible to term the ‘job profile’ of a lawyer as client servicing because lawyers are nothing but the officers of the Hon’ble Court who have to assist the court and not to act as a mouthpiece of the client. The lawyer renders his assistance to his client and nothing more, whereas the doctor-patient relationship is one to one. This places an onerous obligation on the lawyers; on the one hand, he has to represent his client to the best of his abilities, and on the other, he has to maintain a far greater degree of detachment than another profession".
Further, Sanjay Rathi added that the lawyers across the country will never accept their inclusion within the Part of Definition in the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Moreover, the profession of lawyers is an integral part of the judicial system and isn’t available in relation for trade-in commercial actions and the legal profession cannot be inserted for any purpose under the provision of Consumer Protection Act 2019 of the Rules as being contemplated.
The objection which has been raised by the Chairman of Delhi Bar Council is to not insert the word lawyer within the definition of Services under the said Act or Rules.
The Ministry of Consumer Protection and ally in National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Ram Vilas Paswan stated that the Government would set up an authority to implement the Consumer Protection Act in April this year.
Author: Asif Iqbal