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The suggestion was made during a meeting attended by officials of the Prime Minister’s office, and secretaries from the Ministries of Law, Finance, Niti Aayog, as well as judges.
It was pointed out by officials of the Department of Justice that India ranked 130th out of 190 countries in the World Bank Doing Business Report. It was stated that “unsatisfactory regulation of legal profession was an obstacle in improving India’s ranking in enforcement of contract parameters”.
Purely with respect to enforcing contracts, India ranked a lowly 172. This was arrived at taking into consideration parameters like time taken to file and serve a case, time for trial and to obtain the judgment, time to enforce the judgment, attorney fees, court fees, enforcement fees, court structure and proceedings, case management, court automation and Alternative Dispute Resolution.
According to the Report, in India, a contract dispute takes 1420 days to get resolved, as against the South Asia average of 1099 days.
Another aspect discussed at the meeting was the need to regulate professional fees of lawyers. The Report reveals that Attorney Fees accounts for 30.6% of the cost of a claim. The South Asia average for the same is 21%.
And the lack of regulation of the legal profession has been blamed for these numbers. The minutes of the meeting states,
“Regulatory framework of the legal profession needs a review. There is need to regulate professional fee and ethics which can be done by an independent body instead of elected body of the Bar.”
Reference was also made to the Law Commission of India’s 266th Report wherein amendments to the Advocates Act, 1961 were proposed. Back in March, the Law Commission had, among other things, called for an overhaul of the Disciplinary Committees of Bar Councils, and called for a ban on lawyer strikes.
That Report, however, was met with strong opposition from the Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulatory body for the legal profession at the national level.
With talk of an independent regulatory body in the works, one wonders how the role of the BCI as the apex regulatory body for lawyers will be affected.