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New guidelines for senior advocates in the Supreme Court

In News: The Supreme Court has published new guidelines for the designation of senior advocates practicing in the Apex Court.....

In News: The Supreme Court has published new guidelines for the designation of senior advocates practicing in the Apex Court. 

  • These guidelines come after the recent ruling delivered by a three-judge bench in a case seeking modification in the conferment of ‘senior advocate’ designation guidelines.
  • The Bench modified the guidelines issued by the SC in 2018, in the aftermath of ruling in Indira Jaisingh v. Union of India ,2017.
What is a Senior advocate?
  • Section 16 (1) of the Advocates Act, 1961 states there shall be two classes of advocates, namely, senior advocates and other advocates.
  • Section 16 (2) allows an advocate to be designated as a senior advocate if he consents to it and if the Supreme Court or a High Court is of opinion that by virtue of his ability, he is deserving of such distinction.

Indira Jaisingh v. Union of India case

  • Indira Jaising (India’s first woman Senior Advocate) challenged the existing process as opaque, arbitrary and fraught with nepotism.
  • The SC (in 2017) decided to lay down guidelines for itself and all HCs on the process of designating senior advocates.
  • It decided the setting up of a permanent committee and a permanent secretariat.
  • Permanent secretariat –
    • A body is tasked with receiving and compiling all applications for designation.
    • Published the proposal for designation on the official website of the concerned court, inviting suggestions and views.
    • Forward these suggestions to the permanent committee for scrutiny.
  • The committee then interview the candidate and made an overall evaluation based on a point system that gave marks for –
    • years of practice
    • pro-bono work undertaken
    • judgements
    • publications and
    • a personality test
  • Once a candidate’s name was approved, it was forwarded to the Full Court to decide on the basis of the majority.
  • The Full Court could also recall the designation of a senior advocate.
  • The SC had acknowledged (in its 2017 ruling) that the guidelines are not exhaustive and left them open for consideration by this Court.

Why are the guidelines being changed? 

  • In February 2023, the Central government sought to change guidelines for the designation of senior lawyers.
    • These guidelines were issued by the Supreme Court in the aftermath of its 2017 ruling in the case of ‘Indira Jaising vs. Union of India’.
  • The designation guidelines for lawyers are based on a point-based system, which awarded 40% weightage to publications, personality, and suitability gauged through the interview.
  • The Centre argued that this system dilutes the esteem and dignity of the traditionally conferred honour, considering it subjective and ineffective.
  • It pointed to the rampant circulation of bogus and sham journals where people can publish their articles without any academic evaluation of the contents and quality of the articles.
  • The Centre also sought to reinstate the rule of a simple majority by a secret ballot, where the judges can express their views about the suitability of any candidate without any embarrassment.
    • The existing guidelines discouraged the system of voting by secret ballot, except in cases where it was unavoidable.

What do the new guidelines say?

  • Minimum age to apply for the senior advocate designation
  • The new guidelines prescribe the minimum age as 45 years to apply for the ‘senior advocate’ designation.
  • The Committee, the Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court judge may relax the age limit if they have recommended an advocate’s name.
  • The 2017 guidelines say that the CJI along with any judge can recommend an advocate’s name for designation.
  • However, the 2023 guidelines specify that the CJI along with any Judge of the Supreme Court may recommend in writing the name of an advocate for designation.
  • Marks set aside for publications
  • Earlier, the guidelines set aside 15 marks for publications.
  • However, the new guidelines state that only 5 marks will be given for:
    • publication of academic articles, experience of teaching assignments in the field of law, and
    • guest lectures delivered in law schools and professional institutions connected with law.
  • Weightage given to reported and unreported judgements
  • The weightage given to reported and unreported judgements (excluding orders that do not lay down any principle of law) has increased from 40 to 50 points in the new guidelines
FAQs Related with Senior Advocates
Ques 1: What is a senior advocate?

Answer: The court grants the designation of senior advocate to experienced lawyers who are recognized for their expertise and standing in the legal profession.

Ques 2: How is a senior advocate appointed?

Answer: The court appoints senior advocates based on their legal knowledge, experience, and contributions to the field of law.

Ques 3: What is the role of a senior advocate?

Answer: Senior advocates provide legal guidance, expertise, and representation in complex and important cases. They often play a significant role in shaping legal arguments and strategies.

New guidelines for senior advocates in the Supreme Court

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