Delhi high court ruled out that if a client is not paying the fees on time to his lawyer then the latter is not empowered to keep the documents or file related to the case of the client to himself and return it to the client.
The lawyer can approach the court against the conduct of the client. But he cannot keep the file of the client for getting the due amount of money from him.
Justice S Murlidhar said in the case that a lawyer should approach the court to retrieve his fees, but he cannot opt for holding back documents or files of the client. This is erroneous on the part of the lawyer he added. He also referred to the verdict of the Supreme Court passed in 2000. The apex court held that ‘advocates have no lien over the file given to him by the client in default of fees. Refusal to return the file to the client would amount to misconduct on the part of the lawyer’.
This will amount to the ‘deficiency of service’ and the client can file the case against the lawyer in the consumer forum.
In 2008 the petition of the lawyer heard by the Delhi high court against the judgement passed by the National consumer commission in 2007. National consumer commission found the lawyer guilty of deficiency in service and ordered him to return the document of the client with a fine of 2000 rupees.
While dismissing the plea of the lawyer Delhi high court upheld the judgement of National consumer commission.
Hence the lawyer is not allowed to keep the documents or file of the client in case of unpaid fees. If he will do so this will amount to misconduct on the part of the lawyer.