In a recent judgement in [V Ayyadurai v The State], the Madras High Court quashed two government orders that had imposed a fee structure for payment of fees of law officers in arbitration matters and civil suits, and set an upper limit of ₹10 lakh for fees to be paid to lawyers. The Court observed that fixing a ceiling on legal fees reduces the nuanced profession of law to the level of contract work.
The High Court’s decision came in response to three writ petitions filed by former Additional Advocate General and Senior Counsel V Ayyadurai in 2020 and 2021, claiming that the Tamil Nadu government had not settled his bills in full for having represented the government in various arbitration proceedings involving high stakes. For such services, Ayyadurai had raised invoices worth over ₹3.94 crore.
The State cited two government orders passed in May 2018 and July 2019 that imposed a set structure for payment of fees of law officers in arbitration matters and in civil suits and fixed the upper limit of ₹10 lakh for fees to be paid to lawyers. The State argued that the invoices raised by Ayyadurai were extremely exorbitant and that he had to abide by the terms of the two government orders.
The High Court, however, agreed with Ayyadurai and held that the government cannot impose a ceiling on the remuneration to be paid to law officers for their efforts. The Court observed that the legal profession requires nuance, wide knowledge, and spontaneity and that the value of an advocate representing the government is immeasurable.
The Court stated that the government can always fix rules and guidelines, but GOs determining a ceiling as fees for a professional cannot be accepted by any court of law. The High Court also directed the Tamil Nadu government to examine the representations made by Ayyadurai regarding settlement of his pending fees and pass appropriate orders within 12 weeks.
The High Court’s ruling is a significant win for legal professionals who have been advocating for fair and reasonable compensation for their services. It also highlights the importance of recognizing the value of legal professionals in upholding the letter and spirit of the law.
In conclusion, the Madras High Court’s decision reaffirms that the legal profession cannot be reduced to a mere contract work, and legal professionals must be adequately compensated for their efforts in upholding the dignity of the government and ensuring that its policies are not struck down by courts of law.