Applications for senior advocates’ designation: Endorsement by seniors is not a prerequisite, Indira Jaising tells Bombay High Court

In 2017, the Supreme Court had laid down objective criteria for designation of senior advocates in response to a petition by Jaising. These criteria don’t include the requirement of getting recommendations from those who are already designated as senior advocates.


TAKING objection to the Bombay High Court’s rule requiring recommendations by two designated senior advocates as an endorsement as part of the application process for the designation of senior advocate, senior advocate Indira Jaising, who hails from the Bombay Bar, has written to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court opposing such a requirement, calling it contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court in Indira Jaising versus Supreme Court of India through Secretary General (2017), in which the court laid down objective criteria to designate senior advocates. 

“The object of the Supreme Court in laying down the exhaustive guidelines and a marking criterion was to make the process of designation of senior advocates, which was hitherto shrouded in mystery, transparent. It must be noted that in these guidelines and the marking criteria, there is no requirement of submitting letters of references from two Senior Counsels”, Jaising said in her letter to Chief Justice Dipankar Datta.

Jaising also drew the attention of Chief Justice Datta to the fact that the Delhi High Court had also introduced a similar rule, which was withdrawn by the full court of the high court after two advocates challenged the same in the high court. 

The whole object behind her filing the petition in the Supreme Court, Jaising said, was to avoid such getaways to justice which do not allow people who wouldn’t otherwise get designated to be designated. 

“There are deserving people, specially belonging to marginalised communities, who would not get designated merely because they are not a part of the traditional old boys’ club of designated seniors. It is well known that such networks have thrived in the legal profession and the designation of a woman or a person belonging to a minority is still a rarity. The point system is self-contained, enabling the Court to evaluate … the merit of the applicant without a recommendation from any other person”, Jaising wrote.

Jaising went on to state that the two systems for applying on the basis of a recommendation and being evaluated on a points system are in contradiction to each other. Making such a recommendation from two senior counsels mandatory for even applying to be designated will create further hurdles for members from marginalised groups to be designated. 

In her letter, Jaising pointed out that prior to the Supreme Court judgment in her case, there were circumstances in which considerations other than merit acquired more weightage. Hence, the judgement focuses exclusively on an objective evaluation of the applicant. 

She has requested the Chief Justice to remove the Rule, and that as an interim measure, advocates be allowed to apply for designation without any recommendation letter.

Read the letter here.