Sampling the Supreme Court, I recently wrote on how the bench and bar are inseparable. Sharing an unfortunate incident of altercation between the bar and bench, I made an attempt to highlight a growing concern of steep rise in heated exchanges between members of the bar and bench. I closed my submission writing that a spade needs to be called a spade, be it a lawyer or the bench.
The current piece borrows inspiration from a recent incident where a notable Advocate-on-Record traced it to the Chief Justice Dipak Misra in an open court and shared a genuine concern that senior advocates are getting comparatively more audience and they do multiple mentionings while juniors are not treated at par. The AOR also shared that it was not the tradition of the court that senior advocates come and mention. The Ld. CJI initially, instead of addressing the concern, shrugged him off by asking not to preach. However, as a welcome afterthought, the incident bore positive fruits as now the CJI announced that henceforth only AORs will be permitted to mention matters for urgent listing and not seniors. I strongly welcome this step which will give more exposure to juniors at bar. I also seek liberty to congratulate the courageous AOR who brought it to the notice of the Chief Justice.
The Supreme Court bar can be classified into 3 major parts – Senior Advocates, Advocate-on-Records and Advocates. Senior advocates comprise of advocates designated by the Supreme Court, advocates designated by other high courts and retired judges of the high courts designated by the Supreme Court. AORs carry a requisite qualification, contest an exam and earn the respectable title of an AOR. All filing is done through AORs. Rest advocates are mostly juniors at bar and the ‘senior yet junior’ counsel who do not wish to become AORs. The juniors range from those recently enrolled to those with vast experience but still learning. It is not arcane knowledge that the dropout rate from the profession is very high and a large section of the recently enrolled ones tends to look for other jobs eventually. Reasons for this may be listed as less remuneration, financial insecurity etc. A major reason, and arguably the most effecting one, is the ‘unequal treatment’ they witness at bar, especially what flows from the bench. It cannot be denied that they are at a nascent stage of their career and should not form an opinion without testing it gradually. But it can also not be denied that there is concentration of the substantial chunk of the case work in few noble hands. Those who struggle like crows in fog gradually succeed and are filtered to reach the next level after a span of 4-5 years. It is now when they choose to fly solo, go independent and take up their own matters. By this time, most of them kickstart their families as well. It is a difficult world to survive. There is cut-throat competition at every level. They realize this and continue their struggle. But, alas, what still hampers them the most is the ‘unequal treatment’ again. They are now a part of the bigger fight in the midst of senior advocates. A lot of benches do not take juniors ‘seriously’. Many clients insist on engaging seniors. There are time constraints and seniors are readily accommodated by the bench for adjournments or mentionings. All these factors affect the practice in an undeclared manner, but alas, no reason to complain.
In the light of my experience at bar, I wish to share a few unwritten-undeclared practices at the Supreme Court.
In Part –II, I will deal with more such practices.