An application has been filed by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, before the Supreme Court, requesting directions for suitable and effective implementation of the Court’s guidelines issued to regulate the assigning of Senior Advocates in 2018 and initiation of the process of designation of Senior Advocates. The application also contained the request that the ‘Senior’ designation process be conducted virtually, just like how a virtual court hearing is conducted.
In July 2015, Indira Jaising filed a petition in public interest in the Supreme Court of India pursuing guidelines for the designation of Senior Advocates. According to the decision on 12th October 2017, the apex court, then issued its guidelines for regulating the conferment of the designation of senior advocates. In consonance with the Supreme Court’s directions, the existing norms were to be “suitably modified.” For example, the Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates, which would be a permanent committee headed by the Chief Justice of India, will be formed to deal with the designation of all Senior advocates in the Supreme Court and High Courts. It will consist of two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court along with the Attorney General of India as another member. These 4 members will nominate a Member of the Bar to be the fifth member of the committee.
According to the application, the Secretariat of the Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates is instructed to call for applications from candidates seeking conferment of Senior designation twice in a year, but the applications were invited only once in August 2018 after issuance of guidelines. The registry should have initiated the process of designation in the last 4 windows, that is, January and July 2019, and January and July in 2020. No such process was conducted. Hence, the process of inviting applications came to standstill after August 2018.
The applicant further went on to state that the apex court’s judgement in 2017 was a landmark judgement that rectified long-standing imbalances and anomalies in the process and introduced a great amount of transparency and merit in the process. Various eligible and worthy members of the Bar have been affected since the Court has failed to comply with its own judgement, by not implementing the guidelines. Hence, keeping in mind the current pandemic and lockdown situation, the applicant has requested the Court to conduct the initial stages of calling for applications for the Senior advocate designation process electronically. The entire process of scrutiny of applications, interviews, etc can be carried out virtually, even in case the present lockdown gets extended.