Top Court modifies guidelines on Designation of Senior Advocate

Top Court modifies guidelines on Designation of Senior Advocate

Today, the Supreme Court passed directions in pleas seeking modifications in the guidelines regulating the conferment of designation of Senior Advocates as laid down in its 2017 judgment on Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India.

The bench comprises Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Ahsanuddhin Amanullah, and Justice Aravind Kumar held that the method of “secret voting” by the full court should be the exception and not the rule.

Further, the bench added,  that it is difficult to prescribe cut-off marks in advance. The bench also upheld the criteria of a ‘personal interview’ and kept 25 marks for it. 

The Court, in its 2017 judgement passed a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 16 of the Advocate Act, 1961, which empowers the Supreme Court or a High Court to designate Senior Advocates. 

The petitioners had argued that the provision conferred unguided discretion upon Full Court to make determinations regarding the designation of Senior Advocates. 

The Supreme Court upheld the validity of Section 16 but noted that certain parameters are required to be considered in the process of designating Senior Advocates. 

Exercising the liberty granted under a clause in the 2017 judgment, which permitted revisiting the guideline for modification, petitions were filed seeking the court’s indulgence in tweaking the extant guidelines.

The petitioner and Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, addressed issues like the practice of the Full Court to take decisions based on voting by secret ballot and by the rule of the majority. 

The petitioner submitted that a system of marking and a system of secret ballots are antithetical to each other. The bench stated that maybe a secret ballot can be called for only as a last resort. 

The Additional Solicitor General, KM Nataraj, appearing for the Union Government made submissions in support of Full Court voting by secret ballot. 

Justice Kaul suggested that the Full Court could have discretion, but only to reject recommendations of the Permanent Committee; or select someone from those who had been called for an interview but did not make the cut. 

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