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Legal News, Current Trends and Legal Insight | Supreme Court of India and High Courts

Designations of Advocates in Courts

9 min read

By K. Manoggnya Reddy

Published on: August 27, 2021 13:13 IST


The Legal profession is the only profession where real practitioners are glorified with the designation of Learned, which denotes their deep knowledge in all subjects. The word learned has a very significant quality.

Sir Edward Abbot Parry, a British judge has stated thatIt is the reason why a lawyer should always have in mind the seven lamps of advocacy, which are: Honesty, Courage, Industry, Wit, Etiquette, Judgment, and the lamp of fellowship. The only profession that recognizes professionals as Gentlemen is Legal Profession.”

An observer of India’s lawful scene rapidly ends up paying attention to a stratum of legitimate hotshots that are both sought after and widely known, i.e, Advocates based at the Supreme court and High courts. Senior Advocates, they are the most prominent and eminent legal experts in India. Stories of their supernatural abilities of articulacy, profound knowledge and contributions to the Rule of Law are often told around. They cater to the country’s political and corporate elite, as well as its new rich.

A lawyer is a person who has been trained in the law and is licensed to practice law. The profession of law has been called a noble profession. The calling of law is a noble and honorable one. It needs to be maintained in view of its impeccable and prominent nature. Therefore, the provisions of the Advocates Act and Rules should be offered to those who are Advocates in their soul. Bar in the country to serve the reason for equity is a respectable one.

An Advocate shall, at all times, comport himself in a manner befitting his or her status as an officer of the court. The Bar Council has now put in place certain rules that will restrict the number of senior Advocates allowed to practice. It has also laid down a procedure for recognizing them as such.

According to the Advocates Act, Section 16 of the Act has classified Advocates into two classes: the Senior Advocates and the Junior Advocates. There may be an intelligible difference between the designation of an individual as an Advocate and the designation of a special field. But the question here is – How does this classification help the Justice Administration System?

Who is an Advocate?

An Advocate on Record or an AOR is a person who has passed a qualifying exam conducted by the Supreme Court.

The examination is eligible for taking up by a Bar Council member who has been enrolled with a bar council for at least five years and who has completed one year training under an Advocate on record.

An AOR is a person who can only file a petition in the Supreme Court. This person also handles all the procedural aspects of a case along with a registered clerk for assistance. The AOR’s name is the one which is mentioned on the cause list. The AOR is held responsible for the conduct of the case. If the Court issues any notices or correspondence, the AOR is expected to respond to them.

Who is a senior Advocate?

A senior Advocate is an individual who has been designated by the Supreme Court or a High Court. He or she cannot file a Vakalatnama, appear in court without another attorney or Advocate on record, and can only accept an engagement to be in a case or draft a plea.

Historical Background

Pre- Independence era in India

During the British era, India had specialists in law, but not the same level of professionals who practiced before courts and tribunals in the modern world who could represent its clients before the courts and tribunals.

The professional pattern that emerged during the late 19th century was a composite of two main streams:

  • The Royal or King’s Courts were in the various Presidency towns during the 17th and 18th century. There was a dual profession involved in these courts with Barristers following with Solicitors.
  • The Company’s Court was one of the many courts established by the East India Company during the 1850s. It was known for its civil servants and Vakils.

The system of courts which emerged after the 1890’s was dominated by multiple sources for recruiting lawyers. Elite Indians who had undergone Law Training in India secured admission to Law Schools in England, Scotland, and Ireland. They were joined by those who had also studied in India. There was no hierarchy of courts in British India, but, in most cases, a High Court was headed by a Province’s hierarchy. The appeal of the Judgment would then go to the Privy Council in London.

Post-Independence era in India

After independence, the Constitution of India established a single, hierarchical system of courts, with wide powers of judicial review. The Promoters Act was implemented on May 19, 1961. It is a demonstration to merge the old law on the evaluation of experts and the law on the appointment of specialists.

The main conventional qualifications that remain from the old framework are still applicable to this collection of Advocates:

  • Senior Lawyers can be appointed as Advocates by the Supreme Court or any other High Court in the UK. They can also be given Silk Robes and Gowns.
  • The Indian process is more selective in recognizing Senior Advocates. According to the Bar Council of India, only 1% of all lawyers in the country are Senior Advocates.

Section 16 of The Advocates Act, 1961

According to Section 16 of Advocates Act, there are two classes of Advocates, which are senior Advocates and others. Senior Advocates are recognized by the Supreme Court and the High Court for their abilities and experience in law.

Senior Advocates may be subject to certain restrictions as per the Bar Council of India’s regulations. An Advocate for the Supreme Court who was a senior Advocate before the appointed day shall be considered to be a senior Advocate.

Any senior Advocate who desires to retire from the profession may apply before the end of the year and the Bar Council may grant his request. Any senior Advocate who would like to continue as a senior Advocate after the 31st of December of 1965, may apply to the Bar Council for approval.

The rules of the Bar Council of India have been made applicable to the senior Advocates. They are also notable for their exercise of their power under Section 49(1)(g) of the Advocates Act. Whereas Chapter I of Part VI of the Rules of Bar Council of India states the provisions related to senior Advocates.

The provisions of these rules are as follows:

A senior Advocate shall not act in any court or tribunal unless they have authority or have the authority to do so – mentioned in Section 30 of the Act.

As stated in Section 30, to act means to file a pleading or an application in a Court or Tribunal or to perform any other act other than pleading required by law to be done in such courts or Tribunal. Any act or act other than pleading required by law to be done in a court or Tribunal or before any other person or authority is permitted to be done on his or her behalf. This rule also means that to act is not limited to pleading or application in any court or tribunal.

The Rule under Section 30 further provides that a senior Advocate, who is a member of the Supreme Court or any other Court or Tribunal, must not appear without an associate or an Advocate under Part II of the State Roll in the place where the matter is heard.

Where a senior Advocate has already been engaged before the rules come into force, he shall not continue unless another senior Advocate is engaged along with him. In cases where a senior Advocate is already briefed to appear for the purposes of a criminal case, he may continue to do so without any additional Advocate under Part II of State Roll.

A senior Advocate shall not accept any instructions or advice on evidence or on pleadings or affidavits in any kind of a Court or Tribunal or an authority as mentioned in Section 80 of the Act. This restriction shall not apply to any matter that is subject to consultation with an Advocate in Part II of the State Roll. The rule also permits a senior Advocate to make concessions or give advice on the instructions of his junior Advocates.

A senior attorney may in recognition of the services provided by an Advocate pay him a fee that he considers reasonable. The rule states that a senior Advocate who acted as a junior in a case cannot, after being designated as a senior Advocate, provide advice on grounds of appeal or in the Supreme court except with an Advocate. It has also been clarified that a senior Advocate may not accept any instructions or brief from a client to appear in any kind of Court.

Senior Advocates and Other Advocates

  • A senior Advocate is someone who has experience and expertise in a particular legal profession. This person is usually judged based on the age and professional status of the profession. Whereas a junior lawyer doesn’t have much experience in law and doesn’t have a lot of ideas on how to handle various situations.
  • Conduct code of senior Advocates is different from that of other lawyers.
  • People usually tend to see an older lawyer as having good practice and experience while a fresh lawyer needs to learn many skills in order to be successful.
  • The quality of a lawyer’s devotion and years of practice are the key factors. The key to success is continuous and long-term commitment which can be seen in senior lawyers. While a junior lawyer lacks this quality, a senior lawyer has the necessary skills and experience to succeed.
  • While senior Advocates are prohibited from doing certain type of legal work, junior Advocates are not prohibited from doing so.
  • Senior lawyers are appointed by the Supreme Court or High Court based on their merit and seniority.
  • This status can be given to an Advocate if the court believes that he has special knowledge or skills in law.
  • A senior attorney is not permitted to appear without a junior associate or an Advocate-on-record.
  • A senior can’t file a pleading or represent his client with his own handwriting.

However, this does not mean there is any kind special treatment given to certain individuals or groups because that can violate the provisions in Article 14 of the Constitution.

Features of Senior Advocates

Since a lawyer may be designated by the Supreme Court as a Senior Advocate there are certain general features that are required or sought out in these personnel.

These features may be general or specific such as Collaboration (This shows the capability to work well with diverse teams and individuals. It sets a collective contribution for the client. The objective is to achieve the maximum output with the least possible interference), Proper Time Management, Credibility, Confidence, Attention to detail, Experience, Logical Thinking, Self control, and Stability.

The Senior Advocates list released by the Supreme Court of India as of October 2019

As of October 1st, 2019, the Supreme Court has designated a total of 37 Senior Advocates of which 6 are Women Advocates. The below are the names of the Advocates on the list:

  • Ms. Madhavi Goradia Divan
  • Mr. R. Balasubramanian
  • Ms. Anitha Shenoy
  • Mr. Aruneshwar Gupta
  • Mr. Jugal Kishore Tikamchand Gilda
  • Mr. Sanjay Parikh
  • Mr. Preetesh Kapur
  • Mr. Ashok Kumar Sharma
  • Mr. Deepak Madhusudan Nargolkar
  • Mr. Ajit Shankarrao Bhasme
  • Mr. Nikhil Nayyar
  • Mr. S. Wasim A. Qadri
  • Mr. M. G. Ramachandran
  • Mr. Manish Singhvi
  • Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan
  • Mr. Mohan Venkatesh Katarki
  • Mr. Nakul Dewan
  • Mr. Devadatt Kamat
  • Mr. Anip Sachthey
  • Mr. Anupam Lal Das
  • Mr. G. Venkatesh Rao
  • Mr. Jayanth Muth Raj
  • Mr. Arijit Prasad
  •  Mr. Jay Savla
  • Ms. Aparajita Singh
  • Dr. Menaka Guruswamy
  • Mr. Siddhartha Dave
  • Mr. Siddharth Bhatnagar
  • Mr. C. N. Sreekumar
  • Ms. Aishwarya Bhati
  • Mr. Santosh Paul
  • Mr. Gaurav Bhatia
  • Mr. Bharat Sangal
  • Mr. Vinay Prabhakar Navare
  • Mr. Manoj Swarup
  • Mr. Ritin Rai
  • Ms. Priya Hingorani


The duty of an Advocate is to help provide justice.

Advocate works as an instrument to get justice. He or she is also recognized as a Senior Advocate based on skills and experience. The duties and privileges of an Advocate under the rules and regulations of the Court are governed by a cardinal principle. It is the primary position of an officer to the Court. The Advocate must not place himself or herself in a position where he/she can no longer discharge his/her duties as a Minister of Justice.

Section 16 of the Advocate Act, 1961 provides that the Court may appoint any senior Advocate with his/her consent or ability or standing at Bar. As far as the senior Advocate is concerned, the State Bar council of India has the authority to regulate it. The senior Advocate is a person who has the authority to approve or deny any representation that the court may give to him or her based on his or her ability, standing at Bar, or experience of law.