Published on: December 03, 2023 at 13:06 IST
A recent hearing of the Supreme Court shed light on the accountability of Advocates-On-Record (AoRs) in signing petitions prepared by other lawyers without proper scrutiny.
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia emphasized that AoRs shouldn’t become mere “signing authorities,” urging them to take responsibility for the petitions they file.
The Court’s observations stemmed from a suo motu plea to reform the AoR system. AoRs, authorized to file petitions in the Supreme Court, have been found to sign petitions without adequately reviewing the content prepared by other lawyers.
Last month, the Court remarked that AoRs have been reduced to mere signing counsel, signing briefs without reviewing their contents.
During the recent hearing, Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, appointed as amicus curiae, suggested that AoRs could declare in petitions when drafted by other advocates. However, the bench rejected this proposal, highlighting that it would make AoRs signing authorities without ensuring accountability.
The Court expressed dissatisfaction with suggested reforms, instructing the amicus to consult organizations like SCAORA for a comprehensive reform report by December 13.
The Court also engaged the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) and discussed concerns regarding misconduct and the need for experience criteria for AoRs.
Senior lawyers highlighted the necessity of revising eligibility criteria, proposing a ten-year experience requirement for AoRs. However, the bench stressed that the core issue was not addressed by such measures, emphasizing that AoRs shouldn’t merely sign off on petitions without proper scrutiny.
Justice Kaul emphasized the responsibility of AoRs, cautioning against using their role solely for signatures and not examining petition content.
The Court aims to discourage this practice and is keeping some aspects of this discussion pending for review. Another bench had earlier criticized the increasing trend of using AoRs as mere signatories without proper scrutiny of the filed petitions.