In its submissions before the Supreme Court Bench examining the constitutional validity of the conferment of Senior Advocate designation, the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association, in its submissions, listed down the privileges accorded to Senior Advocates and contended that the conferment of such designation is essentially the “red beacon of legal profession”.
“The Central Government has recently directed the removal of red beacons from the cars of all dignitaries by amending the Motor Vehicles Act and Motor Vehicles Rules in furtherance of the goal to establish an egalitarian society and bring all persons at par in the matter of freedom of movement on the public roads and their right to access to public places. The conferment of the designation of Senior Advocate to only a few arbitrarily chosen advocates is quite akin to the privilege of red beacons on the car of the dignitaries which needs to be abolished in the like manner,” it submitted.
Association President Advocate Asim Pandya said that the entire process is predominantly based on subjective opinions, and likes and dislikes of the people in power. Such process, it therefore contended, cannot stand the test of reasonableness under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Moreover, it pointed out that the objective sought to be achieved by such classification is also not clear.
Further, it submitted that the designation leads to an increase in the fee charged by the Senior Advocates, thereby, placing their services beyond the reach of the poor, the middle class and the downtrodden. It also alleged that the system results in delay in justice delivery, and that it also burdens the state exchequer.
Furthermore, it went on to allege that Senior Advocates do not adhere to ethics, contending that most of them “are interested in minting money only rather than following the value based practice”.
“In the light of the above stated historical background and analysis of Article 18 it is absolutely improper to create two classes of lawyers and confer undue privileges and advantages to Senior Advocates when on all aspects they possess the same/equivalent educational qualification. At the cost of repetition it must be borne in mind that the word “Senior” is used as prefix in every court proceeding, during public hearing in the court, on visiting cards, letterheads, office plaques, invitation cards sent by the High Court or the legal department, in the functions and thereby creating two classes of lawyers, the first/elite class lawyers and the second/ordinary class lawyers in contravention of Article 18 and 14,” the submissions stated, praying for declaration of such classification as being violative of Articles 14, 18, 19, 21 and 39A of the Indian Constitution.
The Apex Court has reserved its judgment in the matter, which had come up after former ASG Indira Jaising had challenged the practice as being discriminatory. Ms. Jaising has, in fact, given up her Senior Advocate gown in protest of such classification.