Saturday, December 2, 2023

Supreme Court to hear plea against Senior designation of Advocates on March 20

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday listed a petition challenging the designation of Advocates as ‘Senior’ under Sections 16 and 23(5) of the Advocates Act, 1961, for hearing on March 20.

Mentioning the matter before Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, Advocate Mathews J. Nedumpara contended that such designation created a class of Advocates with special rights, which was seen as reserved only for the kith and kin of judges and Senior Advocates, politicians and Ministers, resulting in monopolisation of the legal industry.

The CJI listed the petition for hearing on March 20.

Advocate Nedumpara, who is also the President of the National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms (NLC), further contended that a special class of Advocates with special rights, privileges and status was not available to ordinary Advocates.

He termed this ‘special class’ as being unconstitutional, violative of the mandate of equality under Article 14 and the right to practice any profession under Article 19, as well as the right to life under Article 21.

The petition alleged that due to this system, a vast majority of meritorious law practitioners were left behind as ordinary plebeians received discriminatory treatment in the Courts.

Comparing the ‘Senior’ designation of Advocates to that of Queen’s Counsel in 18th century England, the petition submitted that the conferment of title of the King/Queen’s Counsel was the conferment of a title as a favour to lawyers who represented the Crown. This concept of Queen’s Counsel was totally alien to India, it added.

The petition said the impugned provisions had resulted in denial of justice to the ordinary class of litigants, who were not able to afford a Senior Advocate or who wished to engage a Senior Advocate of his/her choice in whom he/she had confidence and faith.

As per the plea, lawyers representing the cause of their respective clients were entitled to equal and just treatment. However, that almost universally, was not practised. A designated lawyer, who very often represented a bigger fish, would have his way in every possible sense, it claimed.

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