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Legal profession is a service, should not be a money-making avenue, says Kerala HC

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Kochi, Feb 29

The Kerala High Court on Thursday made certain oral observations about lawyers, stressing that the legal profession is a service to the society and they should not treat it as a money-making avenue.

A bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran said that charging by the hour for legal services is a misconception and is definitely not the practice in Kerala.

“You come here after reading on the internet what the Americans and all are doing. We don’t work by the hour. For us, the profession is still a service,” he said, adding that “law cannot be viewed as an ATM”.

“Law is not a money-making profession. If anybody who enters this profession believes that this is a machine that behaves like an ATM – you put in the hours and you get the money – they are sadly and grossly mistaken. Law being a profession where you charge by the hour is a misconception. It may be true in other parts of the world but not in Kerala. And I don’t want it to happen in Kerala, and preferably in the rest of the country. None of us have worked like this, nor do I work like that even now.

“*How many hours do you think we are putting in? We don’t blow our trumpet for that. How many hours do you think the government pleaders are putting in? Many of them don’t sleep in the night because in my court they will have 200-250 matters to look up each day. We don’t work by the hour,” he added.

“Money is something that will come to you when you do better. You need time and perseverance,” he stressed.

Justice Ramachandran’s observations came while hearing a petition moved by a lawyer practicing in Kottayam and appointed as an advocate commissioner by the Chief Judicial Magistrate to take possession of scheduled premises. She received an allowance of Rs 8,500, following which she visited the premises on three separate occasions, accompanied by officers of the bank concerned.

On the third visit, the officials requested the petitioner to take partial possession. However, when the case was called, the bank told the magistrate that the petitioner had only taken partial possession of the secured asset without their consensus.

At this, she informed the bank that she would not be able to complete taking possession and she relinquished her post. Later the magistrate directed her to remit the balance allowance. However, since she had visited the premises thrice, the petitioner said that there was no balance amount. The bank filed an objection to this, and ultimately the magistrate passed an order directing the petitioner to return Rs 2,500 out of the Rs 8,500 that she had received.

Upset by the lower court’s directive, she approached the High Court.

“The impugned order demonstrates a clear disregard for the legal principles governing the appointment and duties of advocate commissioners, setting a dangerous precedent for the administration of justice. The impugned order is unreasonable and in violation of principles of natural justice, as it penalises the petitioner without proper adjudication and consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case,” she said in her petition.

The High Court has posted the case for next hearing on March 5.

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