SC rejects plea alleging inconsistent guidelines of HCs for designating lawyers as seniors

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to entertain a plea seeking a direction to all the 24 high courts to amend their guidelines in terms of the apex court’s judgement on procedures to be adopted for designating lawyers as seniors so that an advocate with ten years of experience at the bar may also apply for it.

The apex court, in October 2017, had laid down guidelines for itself and 24 high courts to govern the exercise of designating lawyers as seniors.

In one of the guidelines, it had ordered setting up of a committee headed by the Chief Justice of India in the Supreme Court and Chief Justices for the high courts to deal with the seniority of lawyers.

“We are not inclined to entertain the plea,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said while dismissing the plea filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay.

Upadhyay, in his plea, alleged inconsistencies in the guidelines framed by various high courts for designation of advocates as senior lawyers and said that the High Courts be directed to modify them so that advocates with minimum 10 years of practice become eligible to apply for designation as seniors.

“The inconsistencies and contradictions in the guidelines laid down by various high courts are largely with respect to the forum where an advocate ought to have practiced in order to be eligible for designation as a Senior Advocate, the minimum age requirement for such eligibility and the requirement of a minimum professional income for such eligibility,” the plea said.

The top court, in its judgement, had laid down as many as 11 guidelines to effectively deal with the process of designating lawyers as seniors.

“All matters relating to designation of senior advocates in the Supreme Court and in all the high courts of the country shall be dealt with by a Permanent Committee to be known as ‘Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates’,” it had said.

The panel will be headed by the CJI and consist of two senior-most Judges of the apex court or “High Court(s), as may be,” and the Attorney General or the Advocate General of a state in case of a High Court will be its member, it had said.

On giving the Bar representation, it had said the four Members of the Permanent Committee will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth Member of the Permanent Committee.

The committee shall have a permanent Secretariat, the composition of which will be decided by the CJI or “the Chief Justices of the High Courts, as may be, in consultation with the other Members of the Permanent Committee, it had said.

The pleas on designating a lawyer as senior would be sent to the secretariat which would compile relevant data and information with regard to “the reputation, conduct, integrity of the Advocate(s) concerned including his/her participation in pro-bono work; reported judgements in which the concerned Advocate(s) had appeared; the number of such judgements for the last five years,” it had said.

It had said the secretariat would collect the data and their sources for perusal and decision by the CJI-led committee.