judicial system

Supreme Court frames guidelines to designate lawyers as senior advocates

It decided that a special committee will interview candidates and put forward their choices based on various criteria.

The Supreme Court on Thursday laid down the framework for the basis on which lawyers should be assigned the designation of senior advocates. These guidelines will be applicable to all High Courts and the Supreme Court, Bar and Bench reported.

A permanent committee will interview candidates and pitch their choices for those deserving of the designation based on several factors, the Supreme Court said. The committee will include the chief justice of India, two senior-most judges and the attorney general.

The decision was made on a petition filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising in July 2015. She had sought guidelines to bring in transparency and an overhaul of the “opaque and discriminatory system” of designating lawyers as senior advocates.

“There should be a deemed designation for law officers and retired judges as it is believed that senior advocates get preferential treatment in court,” she had said, according to The Indian Express. “The new system should consider various aspects, including integrity, pro bono work, expertise in specialised areas of law among other.”

The petition challenged the constitutional validity of sections 16 and 23(5) of the Advocates Act of 1961, which recognise two classes of advocates – senior advocates and other advocates. Section 16(2) stipulates who may be designated as a senior advocate.

In August, Attorney General KK Venugopal had argued that lawyers should be accorded the designation of a senior advocate on the basis of merit, not the number of cases they had won. He said the tag must be given out sparingly to “certify that a particular counsel performs his job better than the non-seniors”, Mint reported.

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