SC to consider listing of pleas for hearing on conferring senior designation to lawyers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday said it would consider listing pleas related to conferring of senior designation to lawyers by some high courts by using “arbitrary and discriminatory” secret voting as a norm and mentioned that “some development” might take place in a week to two.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana took note of the submissions of senior advocate Indira Jaising, on whose PIL the apex court had come out with a slew of guidelines for designating lawyers as seniors in 2017.

Jaising has sought urgent listing of her fresh miscellaneous application alleging that some high courts have been using a secret voting process as the norm for conferring senior designation which is “arbitrary and discriminatory” and should be declared so.

The designation of lawyers should be on the basis of marks given by the designated committee and the voting should be resorted to “only” when it is “unavoidable”, she said, adding that some high courts use the voting method as a norm and not an exception.

“There are some problems about senior designation in various courts. The SCBA (the Supreme Court Bar Association) has also requested for senior designation. I want to take this up,” said the CJI.

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, referred to the demise of senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, who was one of the members of the apex court’s panel for taking initial decisions on applications of lawyers for grant of senior designation and said that a new appointment has to be made.

“You know one of our seniors Soli has passed away. We have to replace”, the bench said, adding that a three-judge bench would hear the case.

“I will take up the matter. Please give it some time,” the CJI said.

“It is a judgement (of 2017) which requires to be worked out by the court. This issue has been hanging fire for very long”, Jaising said.

The plea referred to the use of secret voting process as norm by the Delhi as well as the Punjab and Haryana high courts despite the fact that the committees, set up for this purpose, assign the marks to the lawyers based on the on the “objective criteria” formulated by the 2017 judgment.

In 2017, the top court had laid down guidelines for itself and 24 high courts to govern the exercise of designating lawyers as seniors.

For the apex court, it had said that a five-member permanent committee headed by Chief Justice of India be set up for short-listing candidates for conferring senior designation.

“All matters relating to designation of senior advocates in the Supreme Court and in all the High Courts of the country shall be dealt with by a Permanent Committee to be known as ‘Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates’,” it had said.

The panel will be headed by the CJI and consist of two senior-most Judges of the apex court or “High Court(s), as may be,” and the Attorney General or the Advocate General of a state in case of a High Court will be its member, it had said.

On giving the Bar representation, it had said “the four Members of the Permanent Committee will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth Member of the Permanent Committee”.

“Voting by secret ballot will not normally be resorted to by the Full Court, except when unavoidable. In the event of resort to secret ballot, decisions will be carried by a majority of the Judges who have chosen to exercise their preference/choice,” it had said.


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