We are referring to Writ Petition No. 454 of 2015 of Indira Jaising Vs. Supreme Court Of India Through Secretary General And Ors. dated 12/10/2017 which resulted in the famous judgement of Supreme Court on the system of designation of senior advocates in Supreme Court and in other High Courts. One can easily read the judgement as under:
Let us narrate some facts from the judgement before giving the full details of the guidelines which are historic and epoch making. The following details are mind blowing and are keen detailing by the most qualified advocates from the legal system of India.
The following has been directly taken from the judgement.
“The petitioner in Writ Petition (C) No. 454 of 2015 is a Senior Advocate designated by the High Court of Bombay in the year 1986. She has been in practice in the Supreme Court of India for the last 2 several decades and has also served as an Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India. The perception of the petitioner that the present system of designation of Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court of India is flawed and the system needs to be rectified and acceptable parameters laid down has led to the institution of Writ Petition (C) No. 454 of 2015 with the following prayers.
(a) Issue writ order, or direction declaring that the system of designation of Senior Advocates by recently introduced method of vote is arbitrary and contrary to the notions of diversity violating Articles 14, 15 and 21 and therefore, it is unconstitutional and null and void; and
(b) Issue writ order or direction for appointment of a permanent Selection Committee with a secretariat headed by a lay person, which includes the Respondent 4 Attorney General of India, representatives from the Respondent 5 –SCBA and the Respondent 6- AOR Association and 3 academics, for the designation of Senior Advocates on the basis of an assessment made on a point system as suggested in Annexure P8; and
(c) Issue a writ of mandamus or direction directing the Respondent-1 representing Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court to appoint a Search Committee to identify the Advocates who conduct Public Interest Litigation (PIL) cases and Advocates who practice in the area of their Domain Expertise viz., constitutional law, international arbitration, inter-State water disputes, cyber laws etc. and to designate them as Senior Advocates;
(d) Issue a writ of mandamus or direction directing the Respondent-1 representing Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court to frame guidelines requiring the preparation of an Assessment Report by the Peers Committee on the Advocates who apply for designation based on an index 100 points as suggested in Annexure P8;
(e) Issue a writ of mandamus or direction directing the Respondent-1 representing Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision taken in the Full Court held on 11.02.2014 and 23.04.2015 and 4 designate as Senior Advocate all those Advocates whose applications seeking designation had received recommendation by not less than five Judges of the Supreme Court (including deferred applicants) during the process of circulation ordered by the Chief Justice.”
By Order of the Court dated 24.04.2017 passed in I.A. No. 5, notice of this case was directed to be put up on the website of this Court to enable the High Courts and the Bar Associations of the different High Courts to participate in the proceedings. Pursuant thereto many High Courts have communicated to the Registry of this Court “the Rules – (Guidelines)” framed by the High Courts in the matter of designation of Senior Advocates.
The judgement given by the supreme court took notice of the writ petition filed by Meghalaya Bar Association, Intervention application filed by Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association as well as Writ petition filed in the High Court of Delhi.
The judgement narrates the practices followed by countries like England, Nigeria, Australia, Singapore and Ireland. It is a pleasure to read the judgement and understand the narration. The court judgement also gives the practice prevailing in different High Courts of our nation like Calcutta, Tripura, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Guwahati, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Hyderabad, Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Kerala, Bombay, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Allahabad, Sikkim, and Madras.
After disposing of the writs by many states, the honorable Supreme Court gave the following guidelines:
“It is in the above backdrop that we proceed to venture into the exercise and lay down the following norms/guidelines which henceforth would govern the exercise of designation of Senior Advocates by the Supreme Court and all High Courts in the country.
The norms/ guidelines, in existence, shall be suitably modified so as to be in accord with the present.
I. All matters relating to designation of Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court of India 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”;
II. The Permanent Committee will be headed by the Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India and consist of two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court of India (or High Court(s), as may be); the learned Attorney General for India (Advocate General of the State in case of a High Court) will be a Member of the Permanent Committee. The above four Members of the Permanent Committee will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth Member of the Permanent Committee;
III. The said Committee shall have a permanent Secretariat, the composition of which will be decided by the Chief Justice of India or the Chief Justices of the High Courts, as may be, in consultation with the other Members of the Permanent Committee;
IV. All applications including written proposals by the Hon’ble Judges will be submitted to the Secretariat. On receipt of such applications or proposals from Hon’ble Judges, the Secretariat will compile the relevant data and information with regard to the reputation, conduct, integrity of the Advocate(s) concerned including his/her participation in pro-bono work; reported judgments in which the concerned Advocate(s) had appeared; the number of such judgments for the last five years. The source(s) from which information/data will be sought and collected by the Secretariat will be as decided by the Permanent Committee;
V. The Secretariat will publish the proposal of designation of a particular Advocate in the official website of the concerned Court inviting the suggestions/views of other stakeholders in the proposed designation;
VI. After the data-base in terms of the above is compiled and all such information as may be specifically directed by the Permanent Committee to be obtained in respect of any particular candidate is collected, the Secretariat shall put up the case before the Permanent Committee for scrutiny;
VII. The Permanent Committee will examine each case in the light of the data provided by the Secretariat of the Permanent Committee; interview the concerned Advocate; and make its overall assessment on the basis of a point-based format indicated below:
(1) Number of years of practice of the Applicant Advocate from the date of enrollment – 20 Points
[10 points for 10-20 years of practice; 20 points for practice beyond 20 years]
(2) Judgments (Reported and unreported) which indicate the legal formulations advanced by the concerned Advocate in the course of the proceedings of the case; pro bono work done by the concerned Advocate; domain Expertise of the Applicant Advocate in various branches of law, such as Constitutional law, Inter-State Water Disputes, Criminal law, Arbitration law, Corporate law, Family law, Human Rights, Public Interest Litigation, International law, law relating to women, etc. – 40 points
3. Publications by applicant advocate – 15 points
4. Test of Personality & Suitability on the basis of interview/interaction – 25 points
Total points – 100.
VIII. All the names that are listed before the Permanent Committee/cleared by the Permanent Committee will go to the Full Court.
IX. 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.
X. All cases that have not been favorably considered by the 111 Full Court may be reviewed/reconsidered after expiry of a period of two years following the manner indicated above as if the proposal is being considered afresh;
XII. In the event a Senior Advocate is guilty of conduct which according to the Full Court dis entitles the Senior Advocate concerned to continue to be worthy of the designation the Full Court may review its decision to designate the concerned person and recall the same;
We are not oblivious of the fact that the guidelines enumerated above may not be exhaustive of the matter and may require reconsideration by suitable additions/deletions in the light of the experience to be gained over a period of time. This is a course of action that we leave open for consideration by this Court at such point of time that the same becomes necessary.”
A systematic approach adopted by advocates, Associations, High courts and Supreme Court as revealed in the judgement “We proceed to venture into the exercise and lay down the following norms/guidelines which henceforth would govern the exercise of designation of Senior Advocates by the Supreme Court and all High Courts in the country. “ by the Supreme Court would enable the system to produce some of the best Senior advocates for High Courts and Supreme Court.