The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the fees charged by lawyers need to be regulated, adding that the very essence of the legal profession was to provide inexpensive access to justice. A bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit said there a law needs to be brought in that sets a cap on the lawyers’ fees, reported the Hindustan Times.

The court said that commercialisation of the legal profession is a violation of the fundamental right of the poor to get justice. It criticised the Bar Association and the judiciary for not taking any step to regularise the lawyers’ fees. Pointing out that a report filed by the Law Commission in 1988 to regularise it was shelved, the bench said, “...The public sector should have a role in providing legal services for those who cannot afford fee.”

The court was hearing a plea by a woman from Telangana whose husband died in a road accident, reported The Hindu. B Sunitha said that her lawyer, who represented her accident claims case in the lower courts, asked her to pay Rs 3 lakh over and above the Rs 10 lakh that she had already paid to him. In her plea, Sunitha accused the lawyer of exploiting her trust.

However, lawyers are divided on the matter. Advocate and former Supreme Court Bar Association President Dhushyant Dave told Hindustan Times, “The suggestion by the court is completely unconstitutional and illegal.” He said that like others lawyers too have a fundamental right to practice. “We are not a communist nation, where everything can be regulated.”

Another Supreme Court lawyer, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, on the other hand said he agreed that the fees should be limited. “Without a cap, we lose the idea of being a profession and become commodities that go to the highest bidder,” he told the Hindustan Times.