Foreign lawyers will treat poor litigants well; give tough competition to Indian lawyers: Gujarat High Court
Gujarat High Court today voiced concerns over the manner in which the advocates in the State, particularly Ahmedabad treat poor litigants.
Justice Gita Gopi expressed hope that foreign lawyers, whose entry to India has now been cleared, would treat litigants better.
"I am happy that now foreign lawyers are coming to India. At least they will treat litigants better. I say so because, I have seen litigants spending so much money and coming from far-off places to Ahmedabad to meet the advocates. But in turn, they aren't treated well. They will be made to sit in the office. Forget offering water or tea, you (advocates) don't even allow them inside your chambers," Justice Gopi said.
The Bar Council of India had recently framed rules allowing entry of foreign lawyers to India, albeit in a limited way. Foreign lawyers would be entitled to practice only on foreign law and advise only foreign clients. They would not be entitled to appear and argue in courts or tribunals but can only do transactional and advisory work.
The judge further pointed out that with the entry of lawyers from other countries in India, there will be a 'tough' competition for Indian lawyers.
"With lawyers from other countries coming to India, now there will be a tough competition for you all (Indian advocates). Then I am sure, you will yourself call litigants to your offices, offer not only tea but even food. You will do much more things due to the competition," the judge remarked.
Justice Gopi made the observations while dealing with a motor accident claim in which the advocates did not have proper instructions from the client.
The judge said that poor litigants in India are usually not aware of the laws and they have to spend a lot of money even to get to an advocate's office.
"A poor persons spends money and comes from far off places to enter an advocate's office. Yet, they hardly get an appointment with the lawyer," she said.
But with the foreign lawyers entering the field, the judge said they will bring in the corporate culture and treat litigants in a much better way.
"I am sure the approach of foreign lawyers would be a corporate approach. They will offer tea, coffee and ensure that the litigant is treated well. It is only then, you will learn how to treat poor litigants better. I am very much happy and want to see now what will you all do," the judge observed.
The bench then asked the advocates not to judge the litigants by their clothes. She shared her personal experience about how her father used to visit her school in his 'oily' clothes.
"A farmer's clothes are always dirty... A mechanic's clothes are always oily. You cannot judge them by the clothes they wear. In fact, I think people should not be judged by their clothes. I remember my father always wore his garage clothes. Oily ones always...he used to wear it everywhere. Even come to my school in those clothes. He used to say 'my clothes are my identity'. Thus, we should not judge people by their clothes," the judge said.
She said that she was happy that foreign lawyers would be coming to India.
"I believe even if a single advocate treats litigants well, there will be a change. The moment I read about foreign lawyers coming to India, I was the most happy person," she said.