Ten months after its verdict, the Supreme Court today notified its guidelines for according 'senior' designation to lawyers and constituted a five-member permanent committee headed by Chief Justice of India to shortlist the candidates. The names will then be sent to the Full Court, comprising all the apex court judges, for a decision. The candidates will have to file an application or the committee can also recommend a candidate to the full court on its own, according to the guidelines. The apex court has notified the norms in pursuant to its judgement on October 12, last year by which it had laid down guidelines for itself and 24 high courts to govern the exercise of designating lawyers as seniors.
The committee which will meet twice a year in January and July will have a permanent secretariat which would facilitate collating the details of the probable candidates. The finalised guidelines are titled "Supreme Court Guidelines to regulate Conferment of Designation of Senior Advocates, 2018". Besides the Chief Justice of India as Chairperson, the permanent committee will have two senior-most judges of the apex court, the Attorney General as members and a member of the Bar as nominated by the Chairperson and other members. The committee can suo motu recommend a lawyer's name for designation as senior as well as interested advocates can also submit their application for the designation.
The guidelines said that all the names cleared by the permanent committee will be forwarded to the full court and the full court will not resort to voting by secret ballot unless it is unavoidable. "If the Chief Justice or any other judge is of the opinion that an advocate by virtue of his standing at the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law is deserving of such distinction, the Chief Justice/ judge may, in writing, recommend the name of such advocate for being considered for designation as Senior Advocate," the notification read. It said that an advocate-on-record or advocate seeking conferment o senior gown will have to submit an application in the prescribed format to the Secretariat.
The notification says that every year, in the month of January and July, the Secretariat will invite such applications and at least 15 days time shall be given to file the applications. On receipt of applications from advocates, advocates-on-record or suo-motu application by CJI or any Supreme Court judge, the Secretariat will compile the relevant data including integrity, reputation, conduct, participation in pro-bono work, judgments in which the concerned candidate appeared etc, the notification said. It also said that a lawyer shall not be eligible for designation as Senior Advocate unless he or she has 10 years combined standing as an advocate or a District and Sessions Judge or as a judicial member of any tribunal in India or has been a Chief Justice or a judge of a High Court.
The Secretariat will also publish the proposal for designation of the candidate on the Supreme Court website inviting suggestions from stakeholders. The Committee will interact with advocates and make an overall assessment and list the names cleared by it to go to the full court. The notification made it clear that the names of the judges and Chief Justices of high court will go directly to the full court for consideration. The final decision of the Full Court will be communicated individually to the applicants. In case of any misconduct, the full court "may review its decision to designate the person and may recall the same", the notification said. The person concerned will be given an opportunity to be heard before any action is taken in this regard, it added.