“There is no distinction u/s 16 of the Advocates Act and “any Advocate” i.e. even an Advocate practicing at the Trial Courts can be designated as a Senior Advocate if in the opinion of the High Court or the Supreme Court of India, he fulfills the criteria laid down u/s 16(2) of the Advocates Act,” the petitioner contended.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain challenged against guidelines framed by the Calcutta High Court for designating Senior Advocate, asking the petitioner to first approach the high court.
The writ petition filed by Advocate Debasish Roy had particularly challenged Clauses 11 and 14 of the Calcutta High Court Guidelines.
The bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice KM Joseph observed thus in the order: “It is, inter alia, contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner that inviting applications for designation of senior advocate(s) from advocate(s) practicing in the High Court(s) alone is contrary to the directions passed in Indira Jaising vs. Supreme Court of India & Ors., Without going into the said or any other contention raised we are of the view that the petitioner should approach the High Court on the judicial side in the first instance. We, therefore, permit the petitioner to withdraw this writ petition and instead move the High Court. The writ petition is disposed of in the above terms.”
Clause 11 restricts the opportunity of applying for designation as a Senior Advocate specifically to Advocates who are “regularly practicing” at the High Court in Calcutta. According to the petitioner, this clause discriminates between advocates regularly practicing at the high court and those not regularly practicing at the high court for the purpose of designation as a Senior Advocate.
“When there is no embargo on Advocates practicing at the Trial Courts for appointment as High Court Judges, then precluding Trial Court Advocates from applying for being designated as a Senior Advocate is neither reasonable nor fulfilling the objective of Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act,” the petitioner stated.
Another challenge was against Clause 14 which apparently restricts collection of information of an applicant advocates pro bono work from the Legal Services Authority. Terming this clause as self-contradictory, the petitioner contended: “In case an Applicant Advocate is not empanelled with the Legal Services Authority, then such candidate’s pro bono work will not be awarded any points at all, which is clearly discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. It may not be out of place to mention that there are many such committed Advocates may not be empanelled with the Legal Services Authority but are regularly rendering pro bono publico services to needy and poor litigants belonging to all sections of the society.”
The petitioner also objected to collecting information with respect to professional income of the applicant-advocate as reflected in the past 5 years’ income tax returns.
Within just 13 days of notifying them vide the First Impugned Notification, the Second Impugned Notification was issued calling for applications from Applicant Advocates desirous of being designated as Senior Advocates. Most shockingly, the Second Impugned Notification required the Applicants to furnish their applications with complete details (along with supported documents) within 7 days only, which seems unusually hurried, this was another ground of challenge.
Read the Order Here