Designation of “Senior Advocate” is a coveted position; There should not be Crowd: Orissa HC Strikes down Rule Allowing Senior Designation without any Application

On Monday, the Orissa High Court struck down Rule 6(9) of the High Court of Orissa (Designation of Senior Advocate) Rules, 2019 that confers power on full Court to designate a lawyer as Senior Advocate in the absence of a proposal from Judges or an application for the concerned Advocate.

A Division Bench comprising Hon’ble Justice CR Dash and Hon’ble Justice Pramath Patnaik that the said Rule did not align with guidelines framed by the Apex Court for conferring the senior designation in the Indira Jaising case.

According to the Court, it is stated in the judgement that the Apex Court has recognised two of getting designated as a Senior Counsel, 1) a written proposal given by Hon’ble Judges, 2) an application given by the concerned Advocate. However, there is no third option of designating the Senior designation by using the Court’s suo motu power.

These observations were made when the Bench was hearing a plea challenging the High Court‘s notification of August 2019. The Full Court had designated five lawyers as Seniors by using its powers under Rule 6(9).

The Bench ruled that the said notification was discriminatory and asked the full Bench to make a fresh decision regarding the designation of the said five lawyers and forty-three applications other applications.

Hon’ble Court clarified that till the Full Court makes its decision, the notification in question will remain in effect.

As per the Court, the sole yardstick with which the Apex Court devised the guidelines for framing of Rules for the Senior Designation was the need for maximum objectivity in the process to ensure that only the most deserving and the best lawyers get the Senior designation.

While discussing the issue of locus standi of the petitioners, the Bench opined that the petition was maintainable and the opposite parties were not rivals, as far as the claim is concerned.

Before concluding the day’s hearing, the Bench stated that a Senior Counsel was an asset to the Court and society, and High Courts should have the suo motu power to confer the designation; however, in terms of the Indira Jai Singh case, such powers were not granted to High Courts.

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