[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t all started when Indira Jaising approached the Supreme Court of India back in July 2015 seeking guidelines for the designation of Senior Advocates. The step was Jaising’s bid to introduce transparency and inclusivity in the designation process for advocates as “Senior”. Two years later, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment ruled that the process of designation would be dealt with by a committee indicating a point based format for assessment of applications. 10 months post the judgment, on August 6, 2018 the Supreme Court has issued guidelines to regulate the conferment of senior advocate status.
Breaking- Supreme Court of India on the administrative side has finally issued guidelines to regulate conferment of designation of Senior Advocates. This has come in light of the Supreme Court's judgment last year laying down the objective criteria to this effect.
As per the guidelines, the Permanent Committee to deal with designation of senior advocates will be headed by the Chief Justice of India and will consist of two Senior most judges of the SC, Attorney General and a member of the bar, nominated by the Chairperson and members. The Committee is mandated to meet at least twice a year and will have a Permanent Secretariat, composed on the decision of the CJI in consultation with other members of the Committee.
The Committee shall meet at least twice in a calendar year. Committee shall have a Permanent Secretariat, the composition of which shall be decided by the CJI in consultation with other members of the Committee.
The guidelines also provide that if the CJI or any other judge is of opinion that an advocate deserves to be conferred with designation, the CJI or judge can submit the recommendation in writing to the Secretariat. For the designation of Advocate and Advocate on Records (AoRs) an application format to be submitted to the Secretariat has been provided. The eligibility criterion for designation is a minimum of 10 years combined standing as an advocate or a District Judge, or as a Judicial Member of any Tribunal whose qualification for eligibility isn’t less than that prescribed for a District judge. Chief Justices and judges of High Courts are also eligible for the distinction.
If the CJI or any other judge is of opinion that an advocate deserves to be conferred with designation of being senior, the CJI/judge shall submit the recommendation in writing to the Secretariat.
An advocate shall not be eligible for designation as Senior Advocate unless he has 10 years combined standing as an advocate or a District Judge, or as a Judicial Member of any Tribunal whose qualification for eligibility isn't less than that prescribed for District judge.
The Secretariat will then publish the proposal of designation of a particular Advocate on the website inviting suggestions of other stakeholders. The Committee will scrutinize the data and examine each application as per a pre-determined 100 point table. All the names that are cleared by the Committee shall then go to a Full Court of the Supreme Court. While Voting by Secret Ballot is normally not to be resorted to by the full court, in such an event the decision will be carried by a majority of judges who would choose to exercise their preference. All cases which are not favorably considered by the Full Court can be reconsidered after expiry of a period of two years.
The Secretariat will publish the proposal of designation of a particular Advocate in the official website of the Court inviting the suggestions/views of other stakeholders in the proposed designation.
Voting by Secret Ballot will not normally be resorted to by the Full Court except when unavoidable. In the event of resort to Secret Ballot, decision will be carried by a majority of judges who would choose to exercise their preference/choice.
The guidelines are a big step on the path of democratizing and streamlining the process and eliminating room for any arbitrariness in decision making. Along with the guidelines the court has now issued notice to invite applications from Advocate on Records/Advocates or Chief Justices and Judges of High courts in the prescribed format. The last date for submitting of applications has been set as August 21, 2018 by 4:30 p.m.
All cases which may not be favourably considered by the Full Court shall be reviewed/reconsidered after expiry of a period of two years. Proposal will be considered afresh.
In the event a Senior Advocate is found guilty of a conduct which according to the Full Court disentitles the Senior Advocate concerned to continue to be worthy of the designation, Full Court may review its decision to designate and recall the same.
The notification comes days before the anniversary of Jaising’s ‘Gown Wapsi’ movement. On August 15 of last year, she shed her senior counsel gown to symbolise the discrimination inherent in the senior advocate designation process.