Advocates not liable under Consumer Protection Act for deficiency of services 

Posted On - 17 May, 2024 • By - admin

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India (Court) vide its recent judgment in Bar of Indian Lawyers vs D.K. Gandhi PS National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Anr. has ruled that services provided by an advocate fall outside the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (as re-enacted in 2019) (Act). 

The Court emphasized that the Act was designed to protect consumers from exploitation by manufacturers and traders and not to regulate professional services such as those provided by advocates. The Court highlighted the distinct nature of the legal profession, noting that it requires a high level of proficiency and training and involves responsibilities to the court and the public at large which extends beyond client service. 

The Court also delved into the definition of “service” under the Act, which excludes service rendered under a “contract of personal service” from its ambit. The Court concluded that the relationship between a client and an advocate would fall under this category, as clients exert considerable control over their advocates’ actions, akin to a principal – agent relationship, and therefore legal services are excluded from the definition of ‘service’ under the Act. 

The Court also opined that the earlier three-judge bench judgment of the Supreme Court in Indian Medical Association vs VP Shantha, which held medical professionals liable under the Act, should be revisited. It requested the Chief Justice of India to refer this precedent to a larger bench for reconsideration. 

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