The Petitioner Debasish Roy had argued that the guidelines framed by the High Court were in conflict with the said Advocates Act, 1961 and Supreme Court’s judgment dated October 12, 2017 in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India. On the issue of pro bono work, the High Court held that paragraph 14 of the guidelines that provides only pro bono services done by those empanelled with the State Legal Services is unnecessary.
This is a first exercise being undertaken by the Bombay High Court for conferring the distinction of senior advocate after the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment dated October 12, 2017 in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India, that ruled that the process of designation would be dealt with by a Permanent Committee, comprising the Chief Justice of India (or the respective Chief Justice of High Court), two senior judges, Attorney General (or the respective Advocate General) and an eminent jurist based on a “100 Points Index” to ensure non-discrimination and transparency.
The process of selecting Senior Advocates ultimately turned out to be an exercise in choosing junior advocates, claim the Petitioners. Further, the foremost criterion governing the designation — namely, the standing at the Bar — was given a complete go-by and was totally ignored, according to the Petitioners. Many of the senior members of the Bar who had applied for designation and who enjoy very good reputation and command extensive and varied practice were left out, while many advocates of much higher standing and much better credentials were not recommended and were not designated as Senior Advocates and their claims were totally overlooked, write the Petitioners.
While various High Courts framed rules based on the ruling, those who loved the "square gown" started thinking of ways and means to add up more points or marks to their tally. Suddenly, some aspirants became public-spirited and began volunteering for pro bono work, while others who struggled to draft a praecipe began submitting learned articles to legal journals, a feat inter alia achieved by engaging studious interns to do research and prepare draft articles!
The Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates of the Supreme Court has been constituted pursuant to the judgement dated October 12, 2017 of the Supreme Court in Indira Jaising v. Secretary General Supreme Court. This judgement introduced the objective system for assessing the Advocates based on 100 Point Index with an emphasis on domain expertise and pro bono work.
The Karnataka High Court example amply demonstrates that the new process of senior designation gives confidence to the young lawyers without ‘connections’ in the legal profession. It gives them hope that if they are deserving, no one can take away their opportunity to be one day considered for the senior designation. Conferral of this distinction has been duly democratised.
The Union Government has not yet implemented the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India that required the Central Government to give wide-scale publicity to the Supreme Court judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.