Indira Jaising moves SC for implementation of guidelines on Senior designation process

By Rishi Patodia-

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising has moved the Supreme Court for the proper implementation of the Supreme Court’s 2017 judgment in Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India which had laid down guidelines for the designation of lawyers as Senior Advocates.

These guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court for a uniform and standardised process to be adopted for the conferment of the Senior gown on lawyers in the Supreme Court as well as the High Courts.

These guidelines would be subject to modification from time to time as and when the need arises, the 2017 judgment had said.

Ten months after the judgment, the guidelines were notified by the Supreme Court and in line with these, applications were invited by the Committee for the designation of Senior Advocates in August of 2018. The first round of Senior designations, in line with the new guidelines, culminated in 37 applicants being designated Senior Advocates in March of 2019.

However, between August 2018 and August 2020, no such call for invitations for the Senior designation process was made by the Committee and the process has been at a standstill ever since.

According to the notified guidelines on this issue, such a call for applications should ideally have been made in January 2019, July 2019, January 2020, and July 2020, Jaising’s application says.

The process of Senior designation was made transparent by the Supreme Court through the landmark judgment of 2017 which was crystallised when the guidelines were notified. It “rectified long-standing imbalances and anomalies” in the designation process, the application states.

In this backdrop, Jaising prays that the guidelines notified as a result of the judgment must be implemented in letter and spirit.

Not only the candidates themselves, but the designation process also benefits the litigants, who are then enabled to choose from a “wide variety of talent”, as well as the Court, which can benefit from the assistance of these Senior Advocates. Therefore, this process should be initiated and carried out periodically as is stipulated in the judgment and the guidelines, Jaising asserts.

The application stated that,

“Each senior advocate brings to the table a unique set of expertise, experience and talent thereby assisting the court in multiple ways such as complex pro bono matters.”

Mindful of the existing situation as regards the pandemic and the resultant limitations, the application adds that the initial process of the designation can be carried out in the electronic mode, in line with how the Court is discharging its duties and functions of hearing cases through video conferencing. The application states,

“this Court has done an admirable job of ensuring that the doors of justice are kept open even in the face of the crisis brought by the global pandemic. It is reiterated that this Hon’ble Court by conducting numerous hearings of Court case via virtual mode on a daily basis has done a commendable job and hence, by the present application, it is most respectfully submitted that a similar procedure can also be extended to the Senior designation process.”