Musings on hefty lawyer fee and the new FRDI Bill
A country’s governance is based on many systems put in place. No matter the form of the Government is Democracy, Communism, Oligarchy, Military Dictatorship or Religion-based Republic. The Constitution can always be written down as one wants or the existing one may be given a go-by, like it happened during Indira Gandhi’s years of Internal Emergency — 1975-1977. Nazi Germany was another example where Hitler manipulated Democracy.
The command and control of administering the country slips into the hands of few individuals or one individual. The systems in place are Defence, Communication, Foreign Affairs, Revenue, Taxation, Judiciary and, of course, Police. The other systems already in place are health, education, public works etc. We have seen all this after the end of monarchy in the world.
So where does the question of professional fees or deposits in Banks come in? I am reflecting on the high moral precept delivered by the Supreme Court last Tuesday saying the astronomical fees charged by lawyers and the commercialisation of the legal profession, as seen today, is a violation of the fundamental right of the poor to get equal justice. This is a case of a Legal System gone wonky.
Reason for this scathing observation was the unconscionable, astronomical fees charged by an advocate of one B. Sunitha, a woman from Telangana, whose husband died in a road accident. She was made to sign a cheque for Rs. 3 lakh by a lawyer who represented her accident claims case in the Lower Courts. The avarice and total lack of compassion of this lawyer surfaced when it was learnt that this lawyer had already collected by way of his fees Rs. 10 lakh from this lady !
By sheer good luck, I guess, she was guided to go to the Supreme Court through Supreme Court advocate K. Parameshwar. In her petition to the Apex Court, Sunitha had argued that the Lower Court lawyer had exploited a widow’s trust and the Supreme Court agreed.
If the public were to have confidence in the Legal System then the public should first have confidence in the legal profession (in the lawyers), observed the Supreme Court saying both are integral to each other — confidence in the lawyer and the legal system.
Some lawyers not only charge more than they really deserve for their services but also cheat the clients by manipulating the Legal System.
I have heard of a similar case of a widow in Mysuru. Wonder why she should not go to Supreme Court and file a petition through the same Supreme Court advocate who appeared for B. Sunitha, the widow from Telangana.
In this case one widow, Parvathy, had filed a case in District Consumer Redressal Forum (the Consumer Court) for recovery of misappropriated amount from a Bank in Mysuru. She won the case.
Finally, after losing appeals, the Bank Manager came to the widow’s house with a cheque of Rs. 85,000 when in fact it should have been Rs. 4,35,000 @ 22% interest for 16 years the case took. So, she refused to accept and filed for Execution to recover her just dues through another Advocate.
In the meanwhile, the Bank submitted the Rs. 85,000 cheque to the Court, District Forum, and shockingly that cheque in-turn was given to the Ex-Advocate by the Consumer Court on the basis of widow’s ‘signature’ which, she claims, was forged.
On learning this, she filed a private criminal complaint accusing the Ex-Advocate who took the cheque and deposited it to his account in his Bank. The Ex-Advocate is on bail and this case is pending since 2006!
Jai ho! Legal System!!
All this ordeal for a widow!
While I shall wish this Namma Mysuru widow all the best, it is pertinent to recall what the Supreme Court Judges — A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit — had said: Despite the lawyer charging astronomical fees in violation of the fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution to get equal justice to all, nothing is done by the successive Governments. Neither the Advocates’ Bar nor the Judiciary have made any move to regularise this evil of hefty fees.
The learned Judges said: A Report filed by the Law Commission way back in 1988 to regularise lawyers’ fees continues to be in cold storage.
I am not surprised. Who are the leading lights in our Parliament and in our politics who alone should move the matter to its fruition?
For now, they are legal luminaries like Ram Jethmalani who charges Rs. 25 lakh for one hearing.
Fali S. Nariman charges Rs. 8 to 15 lakh.
Chidambaram, Law Minister, Finance Minister in UPA Governments and earlier — Rs. 6 to 7 lakh.
Harish Salve, former Solicitor General — Rs. 6 to 15 lakh.
Kapil Sibal, Congress Minister in UPA — Rs. 5 to 10 lakh.
Shanti Bhushan, Leftist and Social Activist — Rs. 4.5 to 6 lakh.
What can we expect from these people?
Only people like Aruna Roy, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal could pursue such causes. Today we owe RTI Act to these people and also Sonia Gandhi. Those who violate professional ethics must be punished as it would be a deterrent to others. Which is why people welcomed the private hospitals’ Bill [Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Act] that was passed by the Karnataka Assembly though with much compromise. At least the Bill and now the Act had given room for open discussion about the issues.
Hence, a similar law to regulate the advocates’ fee and related Court procedures must be brought in based on the Report filed by the Law Commission way back in 1988 — 29 years ago!
Can’t our Prime Minister Narendra Modi do this with his majority in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha?
Modi must answer. Modi’s intention and speeches may be good, but are they getting translated to real change towards development? Is the present NDA Government making people feel safe, secure and free with regard to their personal freedom of choice, the hard-earned money invested in business or deposited in public sector banks and above all, with regard to all-pervasive corruption?
Modi promised to bring the black money…etc., but instead, from what I read, he is bringing a new Bill called “Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill.” It is already introduced in the Parliament — to use depositors’ money to save loss-making Public Sector Banks. No, please. Privatise these Banks instead. If implemented, the FRDI Bill is sure to make our Bank deposits unsafe in Public Sector Banks and being Public Sector Banks they will continue to make losses.
We are warned.
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