New Delhi: Fighting legal battle in courts has become so expensive that it has gone beyond the reach of a poor man, the Supreme Court has said while expressing concern over the legal profession getting commercialised.
Virtually holding a mirror to itself, the apex court said that judicial proceeding is so slow that people in the country are convinced that a case would not finish in their lifetime.
"In the present era, the legal profession, once known as a noble profession, has been converted into a commercial undertaking. Litigation has become so expensive that it has gone beyond the reach and means of a poor man.
"For a long time, the people of the nation have been convinced that a case would not culminate during the life time of the litigant and is beyond the ability of astrologer to anticipate his fate," a bench of justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde said.
Observing that lawyers are equal partners with judges in the administration of justice, the apex court said, "Advocates cannot behave with doubtful scruples or strive to thrive on litigation."
It said wilful disregard for litigants` interest by a lawyer is reprehensible and unbefitting for an advocate.
"Law is no trade, briefs no merchandise. An advocate being an officer of the court has a duty to ensure smooth functioning of the court. He has to revive the person in distress and cannot exploit the helplessness of innocent litigants. A wilful and callous disregard for the interests to the client may in a proper case be characterised as conduct unbefitting an advocate."
The apex court also frowned upon the "multi-tier operation of one lawyer hauling a client and then acting as a facilitator for some other lawyer to draw proceedings or engage another lawyer for arguing a case is definitely an unchartered and unofficial system which cannot be accepted as in essence, it tantamount to a trap for litigants which is neither ethically nor professionally a sound practice."
"Such conduct is ridiculously low from what is expected of a lawyer," it said.
The court made the observations while pulling up an advocate on record for "lending" his signature, for consideration, to a petition filed in the top court and thereafter not even once appearing in the case.
Advocates on record are those lawyers who alone are eligible to file cases in the apex court.
An advocate on record (AOR) is not a "guest artist" who lends his signature to a petition, the bench said, adding, "Such an attitude tantamount to cruelty in the most crude form towards the innocent litigant. In our humble opinion, conduct of such AOR is certainly unbecoming of an AOR."