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Q1.  As you know the professions of law, education and medicine have always been considered to be the noble professions. Traditionally, clients used to place ex-gratia payment into counsel’s pocket at the back of their gown/ robe without settlement; whereas, today senior advocates are charging from 6 lakh to 25 lakh per appearance. Do you think it is justified?

Answer: There is a difference between being emotional and being factual. Emotionally, in India we use highly honourable terms for legal profession like noble profession. For Courts, we use honourable expression like ‘Temples of Justice’. But these are only rhetorics. The reality in India is quite different. Saving few honourable exceptions, most of the lawyers in India will not move an inch without getting fees. So legal profession has become an industry. Either we close our eyes to the reality like an Ostrich or face the facts head on.

I believe in idealism as much as in pragmatism but idealism should have some foundation to stand on. I call it pragmatic aspirational. Both Indian Legal Profession and Indian courts have to face the realities as they are – before we aspire to make them as they ought to be. So there is a need for paradigm shift in our thinking about legal profession. In this connection, many changes are needed both in the mind set as well as in the minute provisions of Indian Advocates Act, 1961 & corresponding Bar Council Rules. Both Indian Advocates Act, 1961 & Bar Council rules are based on archaic thinking and dysfunctional assumptions. In my considered opinion legal profession should be treated like any other industry. It should be governed by the rules of market and like corporate; duty of social responsibility should be fixed. For example, every lawyer must be free to charge fees whatever market can provide but he/she should be duty bound to do atleast 25% pro bono cases. (free service in public interest)

Thus it would be more realistic arrangement.

Q2. Do you think that the noble profession has today been reduced to a flourishing industry?

Answer: Yes, legal profession has turned into industry but there is no harm. It should be regulated like any other corporation by fixing the duty of social responsibility of doing 25% cases pro bono.

Q3. Should the fee structure/ slabs not be regulated by BCI after making necessary amendments in regulatory laws/ rules? 

Answer: Regulations by Bar Council of India is neither practical nor desirable. Saving few honourable exceptions, best lawyers are seldom elected to Bar Council. Given the feudal mind set of Indians, even Supreme Court has become an Arena for Power Play, let alone Bar Council of India. In fact, Rules of Bar Council of India themselves must undergo necessary amendments. Most of the Rules of Bar Council of India and Provisions of Indian Advocates Act, 1961 are archaic. For example, contingency fee is not allowed in India. It is nothing short of hypocrisy. India needs to be honestly selfish. Right now most of the Indians are hypocritically selfish. Hypocrisy must go and authenticity must be respected.

Q4. Should the phenomenon of demanding unreasonable and highly sky-rocketing fees from clients not be termed as unfair trade practice?

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Q5. Should the arbitrary and monopolistic attitude of the senior lawyers making fortunes out of their profession not be capped by the government?

Answer: Since I believe that legal profession should be governed by market rules, any free contract between the parties amidst free competition is a fair practice. But social responsibility of doing 25% cases bro bono must be strictly enforced. I don’t want any capping by the Government. A lawyer is liable to pay lawful taxes to the Government. Beyond that, it is no business of the Government to interfere.

Q6. As a service provider, should the extracting lawyers not be covered under the provisions of Consumer Protection Act?

Answer: Yes, if legal profession is treated as an industry there is no reason why legal services should not be covered under Consumer Protection Act.

Q7. Is there a distinction of advocates on the basis of exorbitant fees and usual fees, which is clearly visible as ‘rich man’s lawyers’ and ‘ little man’s lawyers’?  

Answer: Right now there is a distinction between Senior Lawyers and other lawyers but the system of designating Senior Lawyer should be done in open court in a transparent manner. Distinction for recognition of achievements can be maintained but the assessment of the achievements should be done in an objective, fair and transparent manner.

Q8. What is the criteria of charging unrestrained fees arbitrarily?

Answer: The criterion of charging of fee is dependent on the complexity of the case, level of expertise required, time and labour involved in the case and in appropriate cases, paying capacity of the parties.

Q9. Does the phenomenon of ‘show of face’ really works? If yes, does it not amount to mockery of justice?

Answer: As I suggested above, only a hypocrite or ignorant person can ignore the reality of show of face in court but those persons whose faces are recognised, are also highly accomplished, more experienced, more effective than average lawyers. But we have to make sure distinction is made on merit and capability and not on mere connections.

Q10. Whither is justice, if a little man is faced with the opponent engaging a big name as opposing counsel?

Answer: Let us be clear, in nature there is no equality. We wish to be treated equal and everybody is entitled to equal respect and dignity but it does not mean that everybody has access to equal resources in life. Legal profession is no exception. We should focus on rooting out the real causes of inequality in the basic structure of distribution of resources.

Q11. Do you think that the lawyers starting practice after their retirement from lucrative government posts and getting pension from the government, then by virtue of their getting government pension not be treated as still in government service and as such they should either be restrained for enrolment as advocate or else surrender their pension ?

Answer: I doesn’t think there should be any bar on retired civil servants on starting the practice after retirement. On the contrary, their expertise in government services in different sectors can be utilised fruitfully. To give only one example, one retired IAS officer has joined me after his retirement and his expertise in certain areas is of great value to our clients in the area of finance.

Q12. Although the Supreme Court bench of CJI  H.L. Dattu and Justice A.K. Sikri had quashed the move of bar councils to fix the upper age limit for law admission/ practice, still don’t you think that the senior lawyers after the age of 65 years should take voluntary retirement ?

Answer: I don’t think there should be any upper age limit for lawyers to practise. If the test of capability of a lawyer is to be determined by the free market forces under free competition, why arbitrary age limit be fixed for the practice of lawyers when like an old wine, lawyers get better with years of maturation.

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