The Supreme Court, today, delivered the judgment on the issue of whether advocates can be held liable under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) for deficiency of services and whether such services will come under the purview of the CPA and held that it will not fall under the purview of CPA.

The Bench of Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal observed, "All these attributes and strengthen our opinion that services of an advocate would, therefore, stand excluded from the definition of 'service' under Section 2."

The Court said, "By answering the first question...we have distinguished the profession from a business and trade...a profession would require high level of education training...the very purpose and object of CPA, 1986 and thereafter CPA, 2019 to provide protection to the consumer from unfair practices and unethical business practices only...there is nothing to suggest that the legislature ever intended to include professions or professionals within the purposes...The decision in the case of VP Shantha...referred to a larger bench...The second question we have considered whether the legal profession is distinguished from other professions... The legal profession is sui generis and cannot be compared with other professions."

Justice Mithal supplemented the opinion.

The arguments were concluded and the Bench reserved the judgment on February 29, 2024. Senior Advocates Narender Hooda, Guru Krishna Kumar, Manoj Swarup, Manan Mishra, Jaideep Gupta, Shekhar Naphade, D.K. Sharma and Vikas Singh appeared and argued the matter at length. Senior Advocate V. Giri was appointed as an Amicus Curiae in the matter.

The Amicus had submitted that the advocates who appear in the court may be immune from the purview of CPA but on the other hand, lawyers who are giving any other services may be covered under the Act.

The Supreme Court's judgment in Indian Medical Association v. VP Shantha (1995) was discussed at length in which it has been held that medical professionals will fall under the ambit of 'services' in the Act.

On April 13, 2009, the Court had stayed the impugned order.

The Civil Appeal was filed in 2007 assailing the judgment passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission(NCDRC) which had observed that services rendered by lawyers would be covered within the ambit of Section 2 (o) of the CPA, 1986 (Section 2(42) in CPA, 2019) which defines 'service'.

Cause Title: Bar Of Indian Lawyers Through Its President Jasbir Sigh Malik v. D.K. Gandhi PS National Institute Of Communicable Diseases & Anr. (Civil Appeal No(s).2646/2009)