Plea Filed In Karnataka HC Challenging Conferment Of Senior Designation On 18 Advocates [Read Petition]
A petition has been filed in the Karnataka High Court challenging the notification passed by it on November 16 last year conferring senior designation on eighteen advocates.
The petition has been filed by four advocates—Mr. Puttige R. Ramesh, Mr. Bhat Ganesh Krishna, Mr. M.H. Sawkar and Mr. B.L. Acharya.
The high court had, on June 8, 2018, notified The High Court of Karnataka (Designation of Senior Advocates) Rules, 2018 in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in October, 2017 on Senior Advocate Indira Jaising's petition.
The rules allow lawyers who appear in courts subordinate to the Karnataka High Court to apply for the designation as well. Further, they prescribe a point-based assessment of Advocates who are being considered for such designation.
As per the Rules, all applications and written proposals are to be submitted to the Secretariat, who is then expected to compile data on the applicant's reputation, conduct, and integrity, including his participation in pro bono work and his appearance in cases involving questions of law during the past five years. The application or the proposal is then supposed to be published on the high court website, inviting suggestions and views of other stakeholders.
The petitioners, however, contend that this requirement was reduced to an empty formality by the Secretariat, as he merely published the names of the 68 applicants on the website, without listing down any of their details.
The Rules also envisage constitution of a permanent Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates. The Committee is to be headed by the Chief Justice, and comprises of (i) two senior-most sitting Judges of the High Court of Karnataka; (ii) the Advocate General for State of Karnataka; and (iii) a member of the Karnataka High Court Bar, to be nominated by the other members of the committee.
The petition now asserts that the Advocate General had participated in the Committee deliberations concerning advocates who he had endorsed as well as in respect of one of his erstwhile juniors and two of close associates. This, it says, "gives rise to apprehension of bias" on his part.
The petition further claims that while the Rules require final consideration of the candidates by the Full Court, the Chief Justice of the High Court had insisted that only persons securing a minimal cut-off of 50 points out of 100 points in the assessment made by the Committee should be considered by the Full Court.
It then asserts that the Rules do not prescribe cut-off points for consideration by the Full Court, and that the Committee was anyway supposed to play the limited role of making an assessment and preparing a report for the Full Court.
Pointing out such discrepancies, the petition also alleges that the Committee seemed to have ignored the seniority and standing at the bar of various advocates. For instance, it lists down the names of those designated and points out that a few of them have ten or less reported judgments to their credit.
Thereafter, alleging arbitrariness and discrimination in the process, the petition contends, "The procedure adopted by the Committee was unreasonable and was not fair and was not transparent. Therefore, arbitrariness is writ large in the entire exercise. In the circumstances, the fundamental rights of the petitioners under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India stand violated. In these circumstances, the said notification cannot be sustained in law."
It therefore calls for the entire records pertaining to the proceedings of the Committee and the Full Court, starting from August 7, 2018 till the issuance of the notification on November 16, 2018.
The petition also demands that the entire exercise be redone in accordance with the notified Rules, and seeks a stay on the notification during the pendency of the petition.
Read the Petition Here