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Why Not Lawyers Too?

The judgement could apply to the legal profession as well

Why Not Lawyers Too?
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Most lawyers agree that the order, in principle, does apply to the legal profession. But they are divided over whether this is a healthy development. According to R.K. Anand, chairman, Bar Council of India, the order puts lawyers and other professionals within the ambit of the CPA. If doctors cannot seek exemption by claiming "contract of personal service", nor can lawyers. "But I don't think lawyers should come under the CPA. Self-regulation by the legal community is a far better way of dealing with complaints against lawyers," he adds.

Delhi Bar Association President Rajiv Khosla insists that lawyers cannot be included. "The issue had been raised once and we clearly told the Government it was not possible. We are officers of the court and have a special status," he says. Consumer activists disagree. Negligent lawyers who harass clients by allowing cases to drag on should be brought to book, they point out.

Harish Salve, eminent lawyer, is not certain whether the recent ruling applies to the legal profession. "One view is that it does, but there are many different categories of lawyers. For instance, can a counsel who gets only an honorarium be liable under the CPA? A separate clarification would have to be issued," he says.

Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan says the order "will apply equally to lawyers" and that a separate judgement is not required. He emphasises that in its order, the Supreme Court has not laid down anything new. Doctors and lawyers were liable to be sued in civil courts. The CPA, however, allows a quick and inexpensive means of litigation for appellants. But, as Bhushan says, "I don't know how long it will hold true. Special courts tend to get bogged down quite quickly."

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