SC Issues Guidelines To Accord Senior Designation To Lawyers

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New Delhi(PTI): The Supreme Court today issued a slew of guidelines, including setting up of a permanent committee led by the Chief Justice of India, to accord senior designation to lawyers.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that besides the CJI, the committee would include a senior- most apex court or a high court judge, as the case may be.

The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha, proposed the setting up of a permanent secretariat which would collate all information of a candidate who would be considered for conferring of senior designation by the permanent committee.

Besides the CJI and senior-most SC or HC judge, the committee would include a representative of the bar and the Attorney General in case of the apex court and Advocate General in case of high courts.

While deciding the issue of designating a lawyer as senior advocate, the committee would also consider aspects such as number of years put in the practise, judgements in cases in which the lawyer has been a part, pro bono litigations (taken up in public interest) and the test of personality.

A lawyer will have to undergo the test of personality in which he will be interviewed for being designated as a senior lawyer.

The bench also made it clear that the permanent secretariat will put the names of candidates being considered for senior designation on the website for inviting suggestions of stakeholders.

It said after a name is considered and approved by the permanent committee, it will be put before the full court (involving SC/HC judges as the case may be) which will decide to accord senior designation to an advocate either unanimously or majority, through secret ballot.

Earlier, the Attorney General had on August 29, told the court that the designation of senior advocates cannot be termed ‘bad in law’ and it does not violate Article 14 of Constitution (equality before law).

The apex court had in March referred a PIL filed by senior lawyer Indira Jaising to a larger three-judge bench. It had sought transparency in and overhauling of the “opaque system” of designating lawyers as senior advocates, terming it as discriminatory.

Jaising had said the current procedure was discriminatory and should be discarded in favour of a more transparent system.

“There should be deemed designation for law officers and retired judges as it is believed that senior advocates get preferential treatment in the court. The new system should consider various aspects, including integrity, pro bono work, expertise in specialised areas of law among other,” she had said.

The senior lawyer had argued that in the United States, there are no senior or junior tags on lawyers and such a practice was prevalent only in the Commonwealth nations.

On January 2, the apex court had decided to hear afresh a plea seeking transparency and overhauling in the “opaque system” of designating lawyers as senior advocates.

The apex court had also tagged with it a petition pending in the Delhi High Court which challenged the provisions of the Advocates Act relating to the designation of lawyers as senior advocates.

It had said that after the verdict in the matter was reserved, some lawyers had approached the apex court to intervene in the case and submitted that all have not been given a proper hearing on the issue.

The petition pending in the high court challenges the constitutional validity of sections 16 and 23(5) of the Advocates Act, 1961 which provide the statutory basis for designation of lawyers as senior advocates.

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