Until the Supreme Court’s decision in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India, the designation process to confer the distinction of a senior advocate was mostly subjective, arbitrary, more often than not amounting to cherry-picking and surrounded by utter secrecy.
Advocate Indira Jaising standing up for equality and non-discrimination between Senior and Junior Advocates has filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, seeking guidelines to have a transparent process in designating Senior Advocates. This independence day, she decided to let go of her Senior Advocate gown to end the distinction.
TIL: You have tweeted on Friday, 11th August that “On Independence Day I am starting a gown Vapsi movement w.e.f. August 16, 2017 and shed my Senior Counsel gown as a symbol of discrimination.” What made you take this step?
Indira Jaising: I have just concluded my arguments in the Petition challenging the manner and method of designation of Senior Counsels, which I belief arbitrary and discriminatory against deserving candidates. During my arguments, I referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Balaji case which dealt with the question of conferring the Padma shri Awards.
The Court held that they were satisfied with the fact that there were no guidelines of the conferment of the Award and directed the Government to frame the guidelines. The Court also held that a Padma Shri Awardee cannot add the word Padma shri etc. to the prefix or suffix the name. In the argument of the case, I made a statement/submission in a similar manner that a Senior Advocate should not add the prefix “Senior” to his or her name and there should be no distinction between a gown of a Senior or Junior.
“There are no rules of Bar Council mandating a different gowns for Senior Counsel and Junior Counsels. In these circumstances, true to my beliefs. I intend to stop wearing the gown of a Senior Counsel w.e.f. 16.8.2017.”
TIL: Why you have decided to do it on the Independence Day?
IJ: It has been 70 years since Independence. Parliamentarians have been debating on the issue since the Quit India Movement and yet we in the legal profession are aping the British attire and behaviour inherited from them. We also continue to refer to the Judges as Lords and Ladies. Although a resolution of the Bar Council of India states that we need not do so, this occurs by force of habit and we are continuing that mode of address. I must say that I also address Judges as Lordships or Lady and that too by sheer force of habit. However, I have my own ways of dealing with the situation. When I am particularly annoyed by a Judge’s attitude or demands I switch to “Sir” or “Madam”.
TIL: Would you urge other Senior Counsels to give up their gowns ?
IJ: I have just addressed an email to Mr. Fali S. Nariman, Senior Advocate, who I consider to be a leader of the Bar, requesting him to lead a movement in this regard. He is a very down to earth person and in fact does not wear the usual Jacket which is also copied from the British for Senior Counsels. I am hopeful that he will come up with some ideas on how to make this movement spread among advocates.