May form panel to look into rules on lawyers’ fees, says Bar Council of India chairperson

Bar Council of India (BCI) chairperson on Sunday said that the Council is likely to constitute a committee of experts next month to look into framing rules to regulate lawyers’ fees.

“The BCI will convene its emergent meeting on March 2 to consider this issue,” said Manan Kumar Mishra, Bar Council Of India chairperson. “It may constitute a committee of experts, its members, some other senior advocates. The committee will be headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court.”

On February 15, the Delhi high court had passed an order directing the BCI to look into the matter. The order came after an application was filed by a woman who claimed that her former legal counsel continued to represent her in a case even after she had dropped him as her representative. He allegedly encashed signed cheques, which he had taken as security.

Noticing that the Bar Coucnil did not have any guidelines on lawyers charging their clients, Justice Prahiba M Singh observed, “In order to ensure that there is some regulation of the manner of charging professional fee by advocates and also for providing a forum to air grievances of the litigants, there is an urgent need to frame some guidelines/rules.”

Commenting on the court’s order, legal scholar Shamnad Basheer was sceptical of any kind of price regulation and batted for transparency.

“There is no transparency in the fees charged by lawyers (today), especially at the senior level. Once there is more transparency, it is easier to let the free market decide the prices,” said Basheer, also founder of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), a charity that empowers underprivileged communities on their legal rights. “Why should lawyers be prohibited from advertising? Let the service providers compete… Let the client get as much information on different legal services as possible, including pricing.”

Murari Tiwari, a member of Bar Council of Delhi said that not only lawyers, but fees charged by retired judicial officers should also be regulated.

“The retired judicial officers who are being re-employed through arbitration, are charging ₹1 lakh to ₹4 lakh, for every hour. If the lawyers’ fees are regulated, then we also need to simultaneously think about the regulation of other sectors of legal services,” said Tiwari.

First Published:
Feb 25, 2019 00:18 IST

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