SC issues guidelines for designation of senior lawyers

P.E.I. Chief Justice David Jenkins says he hopes the shortage of Supreme Court judges in the province will be addressed by the end of the month

A week after the Supreme Court Collegium chose to make its recommendation public about the selection procedure of judges, the apex court Thursday revamped the age-old process of designating senior advocates in the country and indicated that it is ready for transparency.

"The credentials of every advocate who seeks to be designated as a senior advocate or whom the Full Court suo motu decides to confer the honour must be subject to an utmost strict process of scrutiny leaving no scope for any doubt or dissatisfaction in the matter", a three-judge bench presided over by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

The bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha, proposed setting up of a permanent secretariat which would collate information on prospective candidates.

Besides the CJI and senior most SC/HC judge, the committee would also include a representative of the bar and Attorney General in case of apex court and Advocate General in case of high courts.

Before this ruling, there were no fixed guidelines in the public domain on designation of senior advocates and some of the selections had raised questions over the correctness and the objectivity of the process. The four members of the permanent committee will nominate the fifth member from the bar.

Number of years in practice, number of judgments the lawyer has been part of, pro bono work done by the lawyer along with a test of his personality would be criteria for eligibility. The Full Court may also recall the senior designation of a lawyer if it feels he is guilty of conduct that disentitles him to the same.

The bench also made it clear that the permanent secretariat will put the name of candidates being considered for senior designation on the website for inviting suggestions of stakeholders. Section 16 (2) says that "an advocate may, with his consent, be designated as senior advocate if the Supreme Court or a High Court is of opinion that by virtue of his ability (standing a the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law) he is deserving or such distinction".

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