The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice in an Application filed by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising praying for implementation of 2018 Guidelines formulated by the Supreme Court for designating Senior Advocates.
A Bench comprising of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee heard the matter and proceeded to issue notice in the same. As per judgment dated 12.10.2017 in the case filed by Jaising herself the Apex Court had laid down norms/guidelines regulating the conferment of the designation of Senior Advocates practising before the Supreme Court as well as all the High Courts.
Accordingly, the existing norms/guidelines were to be "suitably modified" so as to be brought in accordance with the Supreme Court's directions. For instance, a Permanent Committee known as "Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates" would deal with designation of all Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court and all High Courts. Further, the Permanent Committee would be headed by the Chief Justice of India, and consist of two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court (or High Courts). The Attorney-General for India (or the Advocate General of the State) would be a Member. These four members will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth Member of the Permanent Committee. The judgement also laid down the composition of the Permanent Secretariat within the Permanent Committee, as well as the assessment process of candidates wishing to apply for the designation. In pursuance of the aforementioned directions, the "Supreme Court Guidelines to Regulate Conferment of designation of Senior Advocates, 2018" was published on 06.08.2018. As per Clause 8 of these Guidelines, the Secretariat is required to invite applications from candidates seeking conferment of the designation twice a year (January and July). Consequently, 105 candidates applied, and on 27.03.2019, a total of 27 applicants were designated as Senior Advocates of the Supreme Court. As per the 2018 Guidelines, the Supreme Court Registry ought to have initiated the process of designation in January 2019, July 2019, January 2020 and July 2020. "However, no such applications inviting applications for designations have been issued by this Hon'ble Court in the last 4 windows and that the process of inviting applications for designation of Senior Advocates has come to a standstill after 06.08.2018", stated the present application filed by Jaising. The instant Application goes on to state that the Judgement delivered in Indira Jaising was a landmark judgment and "has rectified long-standing imbalances and anomalies in the Senior Advocate designation process, introducing a great amount of transparency and merit in the process, which is not plagued by opacity post this judgment". It is further contended that many High Courts have implemented the judgment dutifully, but the Supreme Court has failed to comply with its judgment. Additionally, it is also a matter of public interest as "each Senior Advocate brings to the table a unique set of expertise, experience and talent, thereby assisting the Court in multiple ways such as complex pro bono matters". It is therefore prayed that, in line with the virtual hearings, a similar procedure can be extended to the Senior Designation process wherein the initial stages of calling for application from the candidates can be conducted through electronic mode, such as scrutiny and evaluation of submitted applications, as well as conducting interviews with the short-listed candidates.