For SC Advocates Below 45 years of Age Can be Designated as Senior Advocate Only in Exceptional Circumstances
On Friday, the Supreme Court passed a detailed judgment on improving the system of designation of Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court and High Courts.
A Bench of Justices SK Kaul, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Aravind Kumar delivered the Judgment in the case of Ms Indira Jai Singh vs Supreme Court of India (M.A. Nos. 709/2022, 1502/2020)
The Supreme Court has covered various aspects of the designation such as voting by secret ballot, Cut Off Marks, Points for publication, reported and unreported judgments, pro bono work, the domain expertise of an applicant under various branches of law, age, personal interview and other general aspects.
The designation of Senior Advocates in India is a prestigious title awarded to exceptional advocates who have made a significant contribution to the legal profession. This title is granted in recognition of an advocate’s standing and achievements in the field, which sets them apart as someone who can offer exceptional service to clients, the judiciary, and the public.
The Advocates Act, 1961, provides for the designation of Senior Advocates in India through Section 16, which categorizes advocates into two groups: advocates and Senior Advocates. Under Section 16(2), the Supreme Court and the High Court are authorized to designate an advocate as Senior Advocate, with their consent. In the case of the Supreme Court, this power is provided in Rule 2 of Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013.
The system for designating Senior Advocates was challenged when Ms. Indira Jaising, a Senior Advocate herself, filed a writ petition in 2015. She claimed that the existing system was flawed and not transparent or objective, meaning merit and ability were not always taken into account. She called for a permanent selection committee to be established, which would replace the current voting system.
In response to this challenge, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court issued an elaborate judgment on October 12, 2017. The judgment put forth a series of guidelines to improve the designation process’s transparency and objectivity while still retaining the Court’s designation power. The guidelines provide for the creation of a Permanent Committee to be chaired by the Chief Justice and two of the most senior judges. The committee would also include the Attorney General/Advocate General of the State in question, with the fifth member being nominated from the Bar by the other members.
Age of Advocates for Designation
On the issue of age for designation, the Court said:We must also say that the Supreme Court rests on a different footing as the highest court of the land. Although designations in the Supreme Court in comparison to High Courts have usually taken place at the age of 45 plus, younger advocates have also been designated.
While we would not like to restrict applications only to advocates who are above 45 years of age, only exceptional advocates should be designated below this age. We say no more and leave this aspect to the wisdom of the Permanent Committee and the Full Court.
With respect to younger advocates the Court said:
“Young Lawyers are naturally not precluded from applying for designation, particularly as the 2018 Guidelines do not require anything more than ten years of practice. However, we believe that such advocates would have to display that extra bit of ability to be designated.”