Kerala advocate questions Chief Justice about senior advocate designation

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]N advocate, K V Sohan, has written a letter to the Chief Justice and Judges of the High Court of Kerala, raising serious questions on the procedure of designating senior advocates and the failure of the court in following the Supreme Court’s guidelines in Indira Jaising v. Secretary General Supreme Court [2017 (9) SCC 766] on designating senior advocates.

Sohan, in his letter of 6 March, 2019, has said that the Judges, in closed chamber meetings, while casting their individual votes on senior designation applicants did not follow merit and points which were awarded by the Permanent Committee. He said that the votes of the judges were based on their likes and dislikes, acquaintances or predilections.



“Senior designation can only be based on merit and should not be founded on intimacy, likes and dislikes or predilections of Judges. The voting totally disregarded the merit”, Sohan has said in his letter. ​​


The 100-Point Index introduced by the Supreme Court


A three-judge bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Rohinton F Nariman and Navin Sinha in Indira Jaising v. Secretary General Supreme Court [2017 (9) SCC 766] rationalised the procedure of designating senior advocate.

In the judgment dated October 12, 2017, the Court ruled that the process of designation would be dealt with by a Permanent Committee, comprising the Chief Justice of India (or the respective High Court Chief Justice), two senior judges, Attorney General (or the respective Advocate General) and an eminent jurist on the basis of a “100 Points Index” to ensure non-discrimination and transparency.

The index allocated 10 points for 10 to 20 years of practice, 20 points for practice beyond 20 years, 40 points to the proposition of law advanced, expertise and pro bono work, 15 points to published articles and 25 points for interviews or interactions by the Permanent Committee with the applicant advocate. These elements were meant to display the juristic bent of mind of the applicant.


The pursuit of acquaintance or predilection in Kerala High Court


In the Kerala High Court, 30 advocates, including Sohan, applied for the senior designation on the basis of the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court in the Indira Jaising case.

The interviews of these 30 applicants were conducted by the Permanent Committee of the High Court – comprising Chief Justice Antony Dominic, Justice P N Ravindran, Justice K Surendra Mohan, Advocate General C P Sudhakaran Prasad, and Senior Advocate N N Sugunapalan – on May 16, 2018. The point-based format prepared by the Permanent Committee after the interview is attached as Annexure 1 with this report.

After the assessment of the 30 applicants by the Permanent committee, the names of 28 candidates were put up for “voting by individual judges in the closed chamber meeting of all the Judges”. Out of 28 applicants, three advocates were able to muster the votes of 29, 27 and 26 Judges. While it is not being disputed by Sohan that deserving people have been appointed, according to him, equally deserving others have not been designated. Sohan also included a chart along with his letter showing the voting pattern.

Sohan claimed that contrary to the Supreme Court judgment, all applications were put to vote before the full court by secret ballot, making a mockery of the point-based system.


Questions asked by Mr Sohan


In his strongly worded letter, Sohan asked, “if the way in which all judges sat together (and) voted out the meritorious candidate is adopted in deciding cases on various subjects what will be the consequence?”



And he further asked, “if the High Court which is conducting examinations for selection for the post of District Judges, Munsiff Magistrates, Assistants and peons, discards the selection list and put up for voting by Full Court, will we get the best District Judge, Munsiff, Magistrate and Staff?”


Read a copy of the letter and voting chart: