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Supreme Court Exempts Lawyers from Consumer Protection Act in Landmark Ruling.

In a landmark judgment delivered on May 14, 2024, the Supreme Court ruled that lawyers cannot be held liable under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) of 1986, overturning a previous decision by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). The ruling redefines the scope of professional accountability for legal services in India. The Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices Bela Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal, stressed that legal representation, although paid, does not constitute a ‘service’ as defined under the CPA due to the unique professional characteristics of the legal profession.

The case originated from an appeal against the NCDRC’s 2007 ruling, which classified legal services as falling within the purview of the CPA. This interpretation allowed clients to file complaints against lawyers for alleged deficiencies in service. Petitioners, including advocate M. Mathias and various lawyer associations, argued that the legal profession should be treated differently from other trades or businesses. They emphasized the unique duties lawyers have toward the court and their opponents, which can often conflict with client interests. Additionally, they highlighted the unpredictability and complexity inherent in legal proceedings, which can influence case outcomes independently of a lawyer’s skill or diligence.

The Supreme Court established a clear distinction between professions and other forms of business under the CPA. Justice Trivedi argued that the term ‘profession’ implies a discipline involving specialized knowledge or learning, distinct from a mere ‘business’ or ‘trade’ driven by commercial interests. The court highlighted that the legal profession is inherently service-oriented and noble, not driven by commercial gains. Lawyers are expected to uphold citizens’ rights and contribute to maintaining judicial independence and the rule of law. The court also noted that the relationship between a lawyer and a client is best described as a ‘personal service contract’ – a category specifically exempted under the CPA.

The ruling suggested revisiting previous judgments that differed in view, such as the inclusion of medical services under the CPA as decided in Indian Medical Association v. V.P. Shantha (1995). This landmark case had concluded that medical services fall under the concept of ‘services’ described in the Consumer Protection Act when a fee is charged, holding medical practitioners accountable to consumer standards of care. However, the Supreme Court signalled a potential revaluation of this definition, hinting that the scope of ‘services’ within the Act might need reinterpretation, specifically concerning medical professionals.

Distinguishing Lawyers from Other Professions
During the hearings, senior advocate Narender Hooda, appearing for the appellants, submitted that lawyers have a duty toward their colleagues and must be fair, unlike doctors who primarily focus on treating patients. Hooda argued that a lawyer cannot be seen as a mere “mouthpiece” for their client, as they have obligations to the court and the opposing counsel.

Justice Trivedi posed a hypothetical question: “Can you say something adverse to the interest of your client, even if you believe that is not, right? In a way, you are a mouthpiece to your client.” Hooda fervently opposed this view, stating, “My duty is to assist the Court in performing the sovereign function. That is the first duty. In that duty, I will espouse the cause of my client within the permissible four corners of law.”

Hooda further elucidated that while a patient can ask a doctor not to prescribe any particular medicine, a client cannot ask a lawyer to not cite any specific judgment. He highlighted, “There the relationship is this, if the patient says that you are prescribing me this medicine, I will not take it. My client cannot say that do not cite this judgment and cite only this judgment. This is how, my lords, my profession is completely different, and this is how public policy element is involved in legal profession.”

The decision has significant implications for the medical profession as well. The Supreme Court directed that the 1996 decision concerning medical professionals be reviewed by a larger bench, potentially reconsidering whether medical services should fall under the CPA.

Legal and Ethical Context
The ruling intervenes in a long-standing debate on whether professional services, like those provided by lawyers and doctors, should be assimilated within the ambit of consumer protection laws. While the judgment distinguished lawyers from other service providers by noting their duties involve elements beyond mere contractual obligations, it is important to note that claims of negligence and malpractice can still be pursued in ordinary courts.

The decision reaffirms the unique nature of the legal profession and its role in upholding the rule of law and judicial independence. However, it also raises questions about the accountability of professionals and the appropriate mechanisms for addressing deficiencies in service. As the implications of this landmark judgment unfold, it is expected to spark further discussions and potential legal challenges on the extent to which various professions should be subject to consumer protection laws or governed by their respective regulatory bodies and ethical codes.

 

Written by Maria Therese Syriac.

PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.

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A Chilling Incident: Human Finger Allegedly Found in Ice Cream.

In a shocking and disturbing incident, a 26-year-old doctor from Mumbai, Brendan Ferrao, claimed to have found a piece of human flesh, suspected to be a severed finger, in a butterscotch ice cream cone he had ordered through a food delivery app. This grisly discovery has prompted swift action from the authorities and raised serious concerns about food safety standards.

On June 12, Brendan Ferrao filed a complaint with the Malad police station after making the unsettling discovery in a Yummo’s butterscotch ice cream cone manufactured by Walko QSR Company Pvt Ltd. The police promptly registered a case under sections 272 (adulteration of food or drink), 273 (sale of noxious food or drink), and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The investigation revealed that the ice cream in question was manufactured by a third-party company, Fortune Dairy Industries Private Limited, located in the Indapur taluka of Pune district. This led the authorities to broaden their probe, focusing on the supply chain from the delivery executive to the manufacturing unit.

FSSAI Intervenes and Halts Operations

Responding swiftly to the alarming situation, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) conducted an inspection at the Fortune Dairy Industries premises in Indapur. After a thorough investigation that began on Friday and continued into the early hours of Saturday, the FSSAI ordered the immediate suspension of operations at the facility.

The premises of Fortune Dairy Industries now wear a deserted look, with operations halted and an air of uncertainty looming over the facility and its employees. According to sources, the company employs around 50 skilled workers and 150-160 unskilled workers, along with supervisors and managerial staff. Additionally, the livelihoods of hundreds of milk suppliers who provide the facility with up to two lakh liters of milk daily from nearby districts are also at risk due to this action.

Walko QSR Company’s Response

In a declaration issued on Saturday, Walko QSR Company Pvt Ltd confirmed that the batches of Alphonso Mango Cone (110ml) and Butterscotch Cone (110ml) in question were indeed manufactured by Fortune Dairy Industries Private Limited at their Indapur plant.

While officials from the Indapur police station stated that they have not received any reports of injuries or missing fingers in their jurisdiction, the investigation is ongoing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Pune has also taken precautionary measures by visiting an ice cream manufacturing facility owned by Walko in the Hadapsar area. Samples of manufactured products and raw materials have been collected for testing.

Implications and Concerns

This incident has raised serious concerns about food safety standards and the potential consequences of lapses in quality control and hygiene practices. The alleged presence of a human finger in a consumer product is not only disturbing but also poses significant health risks and undermines consumer trust.

As the investigation unfolds, both the authorities and the companies involved must take decisive action to address this issue, implement stricter quality control measures, and ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future. Consumer safety and confidence in the food industry are paramount, and incidents like these serve as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance and accountability throughout the entire supply chain.

Review by Maria Therese Syriac.

PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.

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A Chilling Incident: Human Finger Allegedly Found in Ice Cream Leads to Shut Down of Manufacturing Unit.

In a shocking and disturbing incident, a 26-year-old doctor from Mumbai, Brendan Ferrao, claimed to have found a piece of human flesh, suspected to be a severed finger, in a butterscotch ice cream cone he had ordered through a food delivery app. This grisly discovery has prompted swift action from the authorities and raised serious concerns about food safety standards.

On June 12, Brendan Ferrao filed a complaint with the Malad police station after making the unsettling discovery in a Yummo’s butterscotch ice cream cone manufactured by Walko QSR Company Pvt Ltd. The police promptly registered a case under sections 272 (adulteration of food or drink), 273 (sale of noxious food or drink), and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The investigation revealed that the ice cream in question was manufactured by a third-party company, Fortune Dairy Industries Private Limited, located in the Indapur taluka of Pune district. This led the authorities to broaden their probe, focusing on the supply chain from the delivery executive to the manufacturing unit.

FSSAI Intervenes and Halts Operations

Responding swiftly to the alarming situation, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) conducted an inspection at the Fortune Dairy Industries premises in Indapur. After a thorough investigation that began on Friday and continued into the early hours of Saturday, the FSSAI ordered the immediate suspension of operations at the facility.

The premises of Fortune Dairy Industries now wear a deserted look, with operations halted and an air of uncertainty looming over the facility and its employees. According to sources, the company employs around 50 skilled workers and 150-160 unskilled workers, along with supervisors and managerial staff. Additionally, the livelihoods of hundreds of milk suppliers who provide the facility with up to two lakh liters of milk daily from nearby districts are also at risk due to this action.

Walko QSR Company’s Response

In a declaration issued on Saturday, Walko QSR Company Pvt Ltd confirmed that the batches of Alphonso Mango Cone (110ml) and Butterscotch Cone (110ml) in question were indeed manufactured by Fortune Dairy Industries Private Limited at their Indapur plant.

While officials from the Indapur police station stated that they have not received any reports of injuries or missing fingers in their jurisdiction, the investigation is ongoing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Pune has also taken precautionary measures by visiting an ice cream manufacturing facility owned by Walko in the Hadapsar area. Samples of manufactured products and raw materials have been collected for testing.

Implications and Concerns

This incident has raised serious concerns about food safety standards and the potential consequences of lapses in quality control and hygiene practices. The alleged presence of a human finger in a consumer product is not only disturbing but also poses significant health risks and undermines consumer trust.

As the investigation unfolds, both the authorities and the companies involved must take decisive action to address this issue, implement stricter quality control measures, and ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future. Consumer safety and confidence in the food industry are paramount, and incidents like these serve as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance and accountability throughout the entire supply chain.

Review by Maria Therese Syriac.

PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.

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The Thodu Tangle: The Karnataka High Court Validates Villagers’ Concerns on Bridge Construction.

Samad A.A. & Ors. v. State of Karnataka & Ors.

Writ Appeal No.: 636 OF 2024

Court: High Court of Karnataka.

Coram: Hon’ble J. B.M. Shyam Prasad, J. T.G. Shivashankare Gowda.

The High Court of Karnataka delivered a judgment on May 2, 2024, on a writ appeal filed against an interim order dated 18.03. 2024. The interim order directed the Deputy Commissioner of Madikeri to remove a concrete road constructed on a thodu within four weeks.

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

The appellants are the residents of Mugatageri village in Kodagu District. A concrete road has been put up on the thodu (a small stream or water channel) in their locality, which might have resulted in the stagnation of water. The initial petition was filed by Sri K.K. Deepak against various state officials and local authorities responsible for the construction and maintenance of the road. After this, there were directions to remove the concrete road, but actions were yet to be taken due to the election.

 

LEGAL ISSUES

  1. Whether the appellant’s rights would be affected by the implementation of the interim order directing the removal of the concrete land?
  2. Whether the appellants should have been impleaded as parties in the writ petition before passing the interim order?

 

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  • Section 4  of the Karnataka High Court Act, 1961, under which the appeal was filed.
  • Rule 27 of the Writ Proceedings Rules, 1977, states that a certiorari writ petition must include certified or authenticated copies of the order to be quashed and, if applicable, copies of orders from all involved authorities.
  • Additionally, the case involves principles under environmental protection laws concerning water bodies.

CONTENTIONS BY THE APPELLANTS

The learned counsel for the appellants contended that the implementation of the interim order directing the removal of the concrete road would affect their rights as they were not made parties to the original writ petition. Thus, their rights and interests were only considered after passing the interim order. The petitioners argued that the construction of concrete roads over thodu may have led to significant water stagnation, affecting the local land properties. They also contended that despite the direction of the Tahsildar, the Panchayat Development Officer, to remove the concrete road, no action was taken.

CONTENTIONS BY THE RESPONDENTS

The learned Additional Government Advocate, representing the respondents, submitted that the interim order could not be implemented due to the elections during the time of order. However, he did not oppose the appellant’s contention that they should have been included and heard before passing the interim order to address their concerns appropriately.

ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT

The Hon’ble High Court recognized the environmental issues resulting from the construction of the road over the thodu. It observed that the grievances of the appellants regarding the interim order and their concerns were valid as they were not given an opportunity to present their case in the original writ proceedings. The Court acknowledged the delay due to elections and deemed it necessary to provide the appellants an opportunity to file the applications.

CONCLUSION

The case above is an example of the importance given to the principles of natural justice by the courts. The courts allowed the appellants to be heard before the implementation of an order that might affect their rights. This case highlights the necessity of ensuring that all parties are heard in judicial proceedings. It also underscores the importance of maintaining natural environments and addressing the impact of infrastructure projects on the environment.

Judgement reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.

Click here to read full judgement

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delhi high court

Justice, not law, is, what we have given to ourselves in our constitutional scheme- Delhi High Court

Case title: Dr. Sri Kiruba Nandini M v. National Board of Examination and Anr.

Case no: W.P.(C) 5633/2024

Dated on: May 10

Quorum: Hon’ble Mr. Justice C. Hari Shankar

Facts of the case:

The petitioner has approached this Court, through Writ Petition, seeking an appropriate writ, order or direction, to set aside the letter dated 12-15 March 2024 whereby the Petitioner’s DNB candidature was cancelled. The petitioner completed her MBBS from Annapoorana Medical College and thereafter she appeared for NEET and was admitted to the DNB post-MBBS in Obstetrics and Gynaecology by the Respondent 1 – National Board of Examinations (NBE) where she was to undergo training in Apollo Hospital. In the third year of her training, the petitioner was diagnosed as suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Chemotherapeutic treatment of the petitioner started on 30 September 2022. Due to Covid-19 pandemic her condition worsened and was placed on ventilator support. On 15 November 2022 she was discharged from the hospital after having undergone 50 days continuous treatment. On 18 January 2023, the petitioner was again admitted to Apollo Hospital where she underwent allogenic stem cell transplant. On 23 May 2023, Fitness Certificate was issued by certifying that the petitioner was on intensive anti-cancer treatment since 27 September 2022 and that she was fit to rejoin work on 10 July 2023. On 21 July 2023, the petitioner rejoined duties at the Apollo Hospital. On 3 October 2023, the Apollo Hospital wrote to the NBEMS, informing that the petitioner was diagnosed with AML on 27 September 2022, for which she had been on continuous treatment; and that she had taken 296 days of leave. The petitioner was extending her course from 19 August 2023, and that the course would be completed on 10 June 2024. On 11 February 2024, the petitioner apprised the NBEMS of her health condition and requested to extend her DNB training programme from 18 August 2023 to 10 June 2024. On 22 February 2024, the NBEMS wrote to Apollo Hospital expressing serious concerns regarding availment of leave without prior approval from NBEMS. The Apollo Hospital replied by stating that they had informed the NBEMS of the critical state of health of the petitioner and the hospital was waiting for the petitioner to recover to submit the requisite documents.  

Issues:

Whether NBEMS was justified in cancelling the candidature of the petitioner on the ground that the petitioner remained absent from DNB training, without prior approval of the NBEMS?  

  Contentions of the appellant:

The petitioner submitted her response explaining the health issues and to accept her leave under extraordinary circumstances and extend the course from 17.08.2023 to 10.06.2024. The NBEMS vide the impugned communication dated 12-15 March 2024 informed the hospital that the petitioner’s DNB candidature had been cancelled by stating that the training institute did not inform NBEMS regarding her absence and that a DNB Trainees can avail a maximum of 30 days of leave in a year and under normal circumstances leave of one year will not be carried forward to the next year and in exceptional cases such as prolonged illness, the leave may be clubbed with prior approval of NBE.  

Contentions of the respondent:

If the petitioner was indisposed for the period during which she did not attend training, she ought to have submitted a leave application so that her request for leave shall be considered by the NBEMS. Prior approval of NBEMS is necessary before a candidate proceeds on leave. It was only on 3 October 2023 that the Apollo Hospital, Chennai wrote to the NBEMS, informing the petitioner’s prior period of absence. It was only six months after the petitioner had rejoined duty in Apollo Hospital that she addressed an application to the NBEMS, seeking regularisation of the period of her absence from duty of 297 days.

Courts analysis and Judgement:

It is clear from the sequence of events and records that the petitioner was in a critical state of health for the entire period during which she remained absent from training. The petitioner was not in a position to submit leave application or forward medical document either to the Hospital or to the NBEMS. The NBEMS does not dispute the bona-fides of the petitioner’s contention that she was undergoing treatment for the critical illness. The claim is also supported by medical documents. On interpreting Rules 4 to 6 of the Leave Rules, it is observed that they do not stipulate that absence from training without prior approval of the NBEMS can result in cancellation of the candidate’s DNB candidature. Rule 5 states that unauthorised absence from DNB/FNB training for more than seven days may lead to cancellation of registration and hence the usage of the word “may” indicate element of discretion. While deciding whether or not to cancel the DNB candidature, the NBEMS is required to keep all these relevant factors and judiciously exercise the said discretion. A distinction needs to be drawn where the absence of the candidate is negligent or unjustified, from a case in which the absence is bona-fide and owing to circumstances which is beyond the control of the candidate. The NBEMS has to keep in mind the overall public interest. The cancellation of the entire DNB program for the reason that the petitioner did not seek leave in advance would not only destroy her morale but would also do complete disservice to the cause of justice. Any decision to cancel the petitioner’s DNB candidature would clearly result in injustice to the petitioner. The two factors which the NBEMS is required to see is whether the seat is carried over, or whether grant of extension to the candidate would compromise the training of existing trainees but no such contention was averred. The petitioner had never issued any show cause notice proposing to cancel her DNB candidature. The communication dated 22 February 2024 is cautioning her to adhere with the NBEMS leave rules. Cancellation of the DNB candidature of a candidate is an extremely serious matter. In Swadeshi Cotton Mills v. U.O.I. concerning strict compliance with the principle audi alteram partem would apply here with all force. No such decision can be taken without issuing a show cause notice wherein the Candidate is not only required to show cause against cancellation of her candidature, but must also set out the reasons and thereafter an opportunity of personal hearing before taking a decision. The Respondent has failed to follow these procedures and hence the impugned decision cannot sustain in law. Accordingly, the impugned order dated 12/15 March 2024 is quashed and set aside. The DNB candidature of the petitioner is restored. The writ petition stands allowed accordingly, with no orders as to costs.  

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a national award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer”.

Judgement reviewed by- Parvathy P.V.
Click here to read the judgement


 

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