An Advocate-on-Record has approached the Supreme Court challenging the latter’s notice inviting applications for the allotment of Lawyers’ Chambers as being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
The applications for allotment of chambers were first invited in October, 2017, allowing applicants to apply under three categories i.e. AoR, Non-AoR and Senior Advocate, in accordance with the Allotment of Lawyers’ Chambers Rules. This notice allowed applicants to apply under the AoR category only if they had filed (or entered appearance on behalf of respondents) an average of 20 cases per annum in the course of any two consecutive years between June 1, 2011 and June 6, 2016.
The petitioner, AoR Anirudh Sanganeria now alleges that despite suggestions for changing the cut-off date to December 31, 2017 being accepted by the Chambers Allotment Committee, it remained the same in the revised notice issued on 16 May this year. The recommendation to change the reckoning year from January to December, instead of June to May also remained unchanged.
He asserts that the two stipulations create an “artificial division of a homogenous class of Advocates, who have been AoRs of the Court for two consecutive years and who have 20 filings per annum”. He essentially contends that the cut-off date creates a distinction between those who became AORs in or before 2014, and those who became AORs in 2015 or 2016, preventing the latter class from applying for the chambers. He explains,
“An Advocate who qualifies as an AOR in 2014, if he has filed 20 cases between 01/06/2014 till 30/05/2015 (one year) and 20 cases from 01/06/2015 till 30/06/2016 (second year), would be eligible to apply for allotment of lawyers’ chambers under the AOR category as per the impugned Notice.
However, an Advocate who qualifies as an AOR in the year 2015 or 2016, would be rendered ineligible to apply for allotment of lawyers’ chambers under the AOR category as per the impugned notice, even if he has the requisite number of filings as the period of reckoning of the two consecutive years for him ends on 30/06/2016 as per the impugned Notice, despite him having practiced as an AOR of this Court for two consecutive years (2016 and 2017) as on the date of submission of the application.”
This classification has been challenged as being without any intelligible differentia between the two classes of Advocates, and devoid of any rational relation with the object sought to be achieved. Besides, the cut-of date is marked more than two years prior to the last date of submission of applications, which is July 31, 2018. This has been contended to be “erratic, arbitrary and whimsical”.
As for the reckoning of the year from June to May, he submits that the same is “arbitrary and unreasonable” , pointing out that the notices for previous years have reckoned the year from January to December. He then contends, “In the absence of any rationale and/or lacunae in the established practice of reckoning a year from January to December, reckoning of the year from June to May under the impugned Notice clearly suffers from the vice of arbitrariness.”
With Mr. Sanganeria himself having become an AoR in February, 2016, he points out that several AoRs like himself would be ineligible to apply under the said notice. He therefore demands that the notice be modified to change the cut-off period of eligibility for filing appearances to 31 December, 2017, instead of 30 June, 2016. Similarly, the period of reckoning the eligibility criteria for AoRs has also been demanded to be prescribed from January to December.