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Petition in Supreme Court challenges designation of 19 Senior Advocates by Punjab & Haryana High Court

In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act 1961, the decision by the High Court was taken at a Full Court meeting.

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A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court through Advocate Malak Manish Bhatt challenging the May 28, 2021, notification of the Punjab & Haryana High Court designating 19 lawyers as Senior Advocates. 

In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act 1961, the decision by the High Court was taken at a Full Court meeting. 

The petition said the High Court violated the mandatory and binding directions of the Supreme Court and Rules 9 to 11 of the Rules framed by the High Court pursuant to the Indira Jaising case. It is submitted that the final lists or recommendations were drawn illegally and not as per the marks/ranking and relative merit. 

The petition further said that the entire result of 112 candidates was never placed before the Full Court for approval and thus claims that the “Full Court wrongly and illegally voted thereon.” 

Advocate Malak Manish Bhatt submitted that 113 applications for Senior Advocate designation were received. However, the Advocate said that “all of a sudden on May 19, 2021, that all the applicants were surprisingly called physically to High Court premises.” 

The advocate further submitted that, obviously, in the absence of any agenda, data, or material of 85 candidates, there was no application of mind of the Full Court as mandated by this Court in Indira Jaising’s case. 

The petition stated, “Permanent committee sat online during such interactions between 20th to 22nd May, 2021, (almost 8 hours), barely giving even a minute’s time to each of the 112 candidates.” 

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According to the petition, a list of 41 candidates had been prepared. Another list was reportedly drawn, and then finally, on May 25, 2021, a list of 27 recommended candidates was in circulation. 

The petition also said that the relative merit of all candidates vis-a-vis the designees was never declared. The Petition seeks the following reliefs: 
1. Direction to produce the complete records and that the same be placed under safe custody for the pendency of the case 
2. Order quashing the notification dated May 28 and also setting aside a list of Senior Designations 
3. Direction to strictly adhere to High Court Rules on Senior Designations 
4. Direction to Permanent Committee to adhere to Rules 9 and 10 of the High Court Rules 
5. Stay on implementation of notice designating 19 Seniors.

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