Monday, December 11, 2023

Supreme Court modifies guidelines for Senior Advocate designation, says secret voting should be exception, not norm 

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The Supreme Court on Friday delivered its verdict on the petitions seeking modification in the guidelines regulating the conferment of designation of Senior Advocates, as laid down by the Apex Court in 2017 in the Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India case.

The directions were issued today by the Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Ahsanuddhin Amanullah and Justice Aravind Kumar.

The Apex Court observed that the method of ‘secret voting’ by the full court should be exercised in exceptional cases and should not be considered a rule. 

The Apex Court, while saying that secret voting defeated the purpose of assessment made by the permanent committee of the High Courts, directed that in case it was absolutely necessary to conduct ‘secret voting,’ special reasons must be assigned for the purpose. 

Noting that senior designation was an honour to be conferred, the top court of the country said that legal profession was no longer considered as a family profession.

Noting that it was difficult to prescribe cut-off marks in advance, the Bench said the permanent committee can analyse the quality of the journal in which the article was published and accordingly assign marks for the publication. 

The Apex Court directed the lawyers to submit their five best synopsis and fixed five marks for publications. 

Upholding the criteria of ‘personal interview,’ the Bench kept 25 marks for it. It said the Supreme Court Committee will decide on the applicants to be called. 

The Bench stressed on ensuring diversity in senior designations by giving representation to women and first generation lawyers. Advocates mostly appearing in Tribunals should also be considered for the coveted honour, it suggested.

The Apex Court further issued directions to ensure that the process of senior designation was carried out at least once a year. 

The top court of the country said it was not imposing an absolute age restriction of 45 years to apply for senior designation, adding that exceptional young advocates could be designated below this age also.

The Bench ruled that the power of suo motu designation for exceptional candidates by full court will remain. It said the new guidelines would apply on pending applications. The full order is yet to be uploaded.

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