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1. The State Commission, Delhi, by its order dated 10-3-2006 in Appeal No. 1815 of 2000 held that the services rendered by the Lawyer would not come within the ambit of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, as the client executes the power of attorney authorizing the Counsel to do certain acts on his behalf and there is no term of contract as to the liability of the lawyer in case he fails to do any such act. The State Commission further observed that it is a unilateral contract executed by the client giving authority to the lawyer to appear and represent the matter on his behalf without any specific assurance or undertaking.

2. Against the aforesaid order the Complainant had preferred the Revision Petition before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi vide their Revision Petition No. 1392 of 2006 dated 6th August, 2007 has held that “In our view, the reasoning given by the State Commission is totally erroneous. The ambit and scope of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act which defines ‘service’ is very wide and by this time well established, it covers all services except rendering of services free of charge or a contract of personal service. Undisputedly, lawyers are rendering service. They are charging fees. It is not a contract of personal service. Therefore, there is no reason to hold that they are not covered by the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”
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This could have come straight off a Ripleys’ believe it or not entry. Imagine – a court   room in a car!

HT reported that The Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal, India’s top court dealing with PF disputes from across the country, has been functioning from an ambassador car for more than three months now. It has apparently been like this ever since a fire on October 6 destroyed its office in the ninth floor of Mayur Bhawan in Delhi. The car is the official vehicle of R.L. Koli, the Tribunal head or the presiding officer, as he is known.

HT provided graphic details as to how the court in the car functions: Apparently, the Tribunal’s head and his stenographer sit on the rear seat. The lawyer positions himself on the front seat, near the driver’s, and turns back to make submissions.

This sorry state of affairs did not go unnoticed. Outlook reported that the Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan lashed out at the government apathy. "There is failure of the states to create better judicial infrastructure. It is pity that the Executive is neglecting judiciary while carrying out infrastructure development in the states," it quoted him as saying. Unless the Executive comes forward with funds to provide adequate infrastructure to the judiciary, the latter will not be able to contribute better to the society, he said, adding that the states have to find a way out to bring judiciary out of the infrastructure constraints.

There is a popular commercial by a furniture maker running on television which uses a courtroom as the setting to demonstrate the long-lasting abilities of its plywood. Two young lawyers are arguing a matter about a buffalo which apparently caused damages to the Plaintiff, prompting him to seek damages from the owner of the buffalo. The Respondent’s demand is that the buffalo, being the alleged culprit, must be produced in court as a witness, leading to an uproar in the court and prompting the judge to adjourn the matter. Months turn to years and decades go by and the lawyers and the judge, now sprightly octogenarians, are still at the same stage at which they were at the beginning of the case. The plywood table stands mute spectator to the going-ons in the court room with the voice-over saying tongue-in-cheek “Chalta Rahe, Chalta Rahe” (It goes on and on).

Real-life court room business is, however, unfortunately, not as humourous as in the commercial and the gross delay in the disposal of matters is not a matter to be taken lightly. Matters reached a head a few days ago in the High Court when repeated adjournments sought by the lawyers prompted a sharp rebuke from the Hon’ble Chief Justice.
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Indian businessmen have made a remarkable achievements in the global business scenario, however, Indian professionals are yet to make the presence felt in the global scenario. Bar Council of India does not permit to have a partnership with chartered accountants profession or company secretaries. In the era of globalization apart from knowing the law, issues relating to Accountancy and Companies Act are very much essential for the mergers and acquisition. Therefore it is the time to think, why not permit all three professionals to come together and render the services under one umbrella. For appearing before the Court it can be stated that only lawyer partner can represent similarly, for audit certificate can be given by Chartered Accountant, and procedure relating to Companies Act may be handled by the Company Secretary. If all three professionals are allowed to have partnership it will help to render better services and Indian professionals can meet the challenges of global competition. A thought for debate and consideration!
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We are still waiting with bated breath for the new Income-tax Code which was supposed to be released by December 2007. The Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that the Code is an exercise of the future and is not aimed at amending the existing Income Tax Act 1961. “This report is about a brand new Income Tax Act, which if all goes well, will come into force from Apr 1, 2008, that is assessments made for 2009-10,” he said. He added that the new Act would hopefully come into force from April 2008 subject to Parliament approving it “well in time”.

This time-table may have to be delayed because it was announced today that a “white paper” would first be released and the Code would be introduced in Parliament only after all the loose ends were ironed out.

Meanwhile, the AIFTP has released its’ six-point wish list for the new Income-tax Code which balances healthy pragmatism with a dash of idealism.

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The oft-criticized holiday calendar of the Supreme Court will now have to reckon with the scrutiny of the the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry of Law and Justice on “Judicial Reforms”.

What has met with the ire of legal reformists are the startling figures of mounting arrears coupled with a spree of unending holidays for the apex court.

At the beginning of 2006 there were nearly 29,000 cases vying for the attention of the apex court. By October 2007, this number has spiralled to 44,819. And many of these are cases which have taken decades to reach the apex court.

In this backdrop, the Court’s calender for 2008 reveals that out of 366 days, there are only 192 working days. The rest of the 174 days (nearly 6 months) are made up of holidays. The Court enjoys 7 weeks of ‘Summer vacation’, two weeks for Christmas & new year, a week for Diwali and various assorted holidays for Id, Moharrum, Raksha Bandhan, Maha Shivratri etc.  This is marginally better than 2007 when the number of non-working days (189) outnumbered the number of working days (176).

Of course, in addition to these holidays and vacations, individual judges are entitled to their own quota of leaves, according to the provisions of Supreme Court Judges’ salary and other Condition of Service Act, 1958.

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