Conferring a senior advocate designation would no longer be the sole discretion of judges. The Supreme Court on Thursday set up a permanent committee to the examine the background of advocates on whether they should get a seniority tag or not.
The committee would comprise the Chief Justice of India, 2 senior most judges and the Attorney General and in the case of state High Courts the Advocate General. The permanent body will interview applicant lawyers to determine whether they are suitable to be designated as senior advocates or not.
The list of senior designation aspirants prepared by the permanent committee after scrutiny and interview would be then sent to the Full Court for voting. Those rejected by the Full Court on voting would be eligible for consideration only after a lapse of two years.
The top court also set up secretariats in the Supreme Court and High Courts to collate the practise details and pro-bono work of a lawyer aspiring to become a senior advocate.
The SC said that a senior advocate guilty of professional misconduct and other offences would face proceedings for withdrawal of designation.
What is a senior advocate?
A 'Senior advocate' is a designation that can be conferred on lawyers in the Supreme Court or high courts. It is a recognition of their superior ability and their standing at the bar.
How were senior advocates designated?
The Advocates Act, 1961, empowers the Supreme Court and high courts to designate lawyers senior advocates. Different courts have evolved different criteria. In the Supreme Court, a lawyer should have been practising for at least 10 years and his or her name is also expected to be recommended by a minimum of five sitting judges. In some high courts, the minimum number of judges for recommendation of a candidate is two and the designation also requires a lawyer to have a minimum number of courtroom appearances. Some high courts also prescribe a minimum income.
How were the applications scrutinised?
On a recommendation, the application of a lawyer is placed before the full court of the Supreme Court or the high court. In the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice may exercise his discretionary power in exceptional cases, but the status is usually granted by the full court unanimously.
How are senior advocates identified in courts?
A designated senior counsel is identified by his black gown that has a rectangular flap attached to the shoulders. While they argue cases in court, they do not file vakalatnamas or draft petitions.