One year after Indira Jaising discarded her senior gown, Supreme Court issues guidelines to designate ‘senior advocates’, invites applications

[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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.


Read the Supreme Court guidelines to designate ‘senior advocates’.

The Leaflet