Bombay High Court Demands Response from Insurance Company Over Alleged Unlawful Legal & Litigation Assistance to Medical Practitioners The Bombay High Court has issued notice to Apex Insurance Consultant Ltd., an insurance provider, in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that accused Apex Insurance Consultant Ltd., engaging in unauthorized practice of law. The division judge’s bench...
Access the exclusive LEGAL ERAStories,Editorial and Expert Opinion
Bombay High Court Demands Response from Insurance Company Over Alleged Unlawful Legal & Litigation Assistance to Medical Practitioners
The Bombay High Court has issued notice to Apex Insurance Consultant Ltd., an insurance provider, in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that accused Apex Insurance Consultant Ltd., engaging in unauthorized practice of law.
The division judge’s bench of Acting Chief Justice Nitin Jamdar and Justice Arif S Doctor sought the response of the company after Bar Council of India (BCI) and Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa (BCMG) concurred with the petitioner’s contentions.
According to the petition, the company was offering to handle all litigation for doctors who take its membership, and was operating like a law firm without any registration with the Bar Council of India or any State Bar Council.
The Court said, “The learned counsel for Bar Council of India and the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa state that the contention raised by the Petitioner that the activities carried out by Respondent No. 1 are in contravention of the Advocates Act, 1961 and the Rules framed thereunder, is correct. Issue notice to Respondent No. 1, returnable on 2 August 2023.”
The petition was filed by Nilesh Khandale, a practicing advocate, contended that the insurance company was violating the fundamental rights of advocates under Article 21 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. According to the petition, there were several insurance companies operating in the same manner and flouting all norms of the legal profession. However, due to limited resources, the Petitioner cannot gather further information regarding the other companies, and thus took the case of Apex Insurance as a sample case to unearth the illegalities committed by such companies, stated the petition.
The petition filed through Advocate Vaibhav Kulkarni sought an injunction restraining Apex Insurance from continuing its activities and directions to BCI and BCMG to initiate proceedings against the directors of the company. Further an inquiry was sought into other companies operating similarly and raising awareness among lawyers and the public.
The petition read, “The Respondent No.1 (Apex Insurance) is into a practice of promising the doctors that they are having the expertise to handle all kinds of litigation and have expert advocates in their panel to whom their case will be entrusted. They solicit the legal work through this mode. Thus, when any litigation or legal work arises from the said doctors and Hospitals who have opted for their membership, the said Respondent No.1 then start searching for advocates who are ready and willing to conduct the case and then give their proposal of fees which are normally fixed for a particular type of matter.”
BCMG in its reply affidavit stated that Apex Insurance was profiteering from the legal profession without being registered as an advocate or law firm. It also said that the company was violating various Rules of the BCI, including those related to keeping accounts, sharing remuneration with non-advocates, acting on instructions from unauthorized persons, and facilitating the unauthorized practice of law. Such violations warrant action under the Advocates Act, including potential penalties, as per the affidavit.
According to the response affidavit, by offering legal services and handling cases on behalf of doctors and hospitals, the company reduces the fees and livelihood opportunities for advocates.
BCMG has further contended that Apex Insurance acts as a tout, seeking clients for panel advocates indirectly through its marketing and advertising activities, violating Rule 36 of the BCI Rules, which prohibits advocates from soliciting work or advertising.
In view of the same, BCMG has sought directions to Apex Insurance to provide full disclosure of the nature of its activities and details of remuneration it receives from the doctors/hospitals and the system of legal fees paid by it to its empanelled advocates.