New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday laid down the guidelines, including setting up of a permanent panel at the high courts and the top court, to accord designation of ‘senior advocate’ to lawyers based on objective criteria like assistance rendered in legal formulations.
“The credentials of every advocate who seeks to be designated as a senior advocate or whom the Full Court suo motu decides to confer the honour must be subject to an utmost strict process of scrutiny leaving no scope for any doubt or dissatisfaction in the matter,” a three-judge bench presided over by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.
The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha, said time has come when uniform parameters should govern the exercise by all courts of the country including the Supreme Court with the maximum objectivity in the process to ensure that only the most deserving and the very best would be bestowed the honour and dignity.
As per the practice in the apex court, those advocates, who have 20 years of practice or others, are considered by the full court for awarding senior advocate designation. The decision is taken on the basis of secret voting among the judges and by the rule of majority. Different high courts followed their own criteria.
With the fresh norms, a permanent committee with a secretariat would be headed by Chief Justice of India, or chief justice in case of high courts, two senior most judges with Attorney General/Advocate General, who would nominate another bar member, would scrutinise the candidates and conduct interview before referring the matter to the full court.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising filed a writ petition seeking direction to make the exercise of designation more objective, fair and transparent in order to give full effect to consideration of merit and ability, standing at the bar and specialized knowledge or exposure in any field of law.
The court, however, rejected the challenge made by some of the petitioners to the validity of Section 16 of the Advocates Act, 1961 that empowered the Supreme Court or a High Court to designate Senior Advocates.
“The designation ‘Senior Advocate’ is hardly a title. It is a distinction and a recognition. Use of the said designation, per se, would not be legally impermissible,” the court said, noting use of similar expressions in other profession like a doctor is referred to as a ‘Consultant’ in medical world with its own implications.