The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on whether its 2017 verdict laying down guidelines for itself and high courts for designating lawyers as senior advocates requires any tweaking.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice S K Kaul that the 2017 verdict needs reconsideration.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, on whose petition the verdict was delivered, told the bench that government has no role in designating lawyers as senior advocates and it has not filed any petition seeking a review of the verdict.
“The fact is, the Attorney General had assisted the court earlier (when the matter was heard previously). No issue was raised that it is not proper. The Union of India never filed a review petition,” observed the bench, which also comprised Justices A Amanullah and Aravind Kumar.
The bench said the issue before it now is how to fine-tune the system.
During the hearing, the top court also heard submissions advanced by several other lawyers, including senior advocates Vikas Singh, Aman Lekhi, Puneet Bali and ASG Madhavi Divan, who appeared for the secretary general of the apex court.
On February 16, the apex court had said that at this stage, it would only address the issue arising from the 2017 judgment which gave liberty to revisit the guidelines on the basis of experience so far.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had then told the apex court he would also be filing an application setting out the experience so far.
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The top court was earlier told that the October 2017 verdict had noted that the guidelines enumerated in it “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”.
In May last year, the top court had modified one of its earlier directions and said the lawyers be allocated one mark each for a year of practice from 10 to 20 years while being considered for designation as senior advocates.
Earlier, the apex court had agreed to consider pleas seeking declaration of the process adopted by some high courts to confer the ‘senior’ designation to advocates through the process of secret voting of the full court as “arbitrary and discriminatory”.
In 2017, the top court had laid down guidelines for itself and the high courts to govern the exercise of designating lawyers as seniors. One of the guidelines provided that advocates with practice experience between 10 and 20 years will be awarded 10 marks each for their experience as lawyers while being considered for designation as seniors.
The verdict, which had come out with a slew of guidelines, said: “All matters relating to the designation of senior advocates in the Supreme Court and 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’.”
The panel will be headed by the Chief Justice 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, it had said.
On giving the Bar a representation, it said “The four Members of the Permanent Committee will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth member of the Permanent Committee”.