[dropcap]A[/dropcap] full court of the Delhi High Court has decided to do away with the rule mandating a joint proposal by three senior advocates for a lawyer to apply for senior designation by the High Court.
Earlier, on March 13, 2019, the Delhi High Court had notified ‘The Designation of Senior Advocate Rules, 2018’. One of the rules therein had mandated that in order to apply for senior designation, a joint proposal by three Senior Advocates designated by Delhi High Court, with not less than five years individual standing at the Bar, as Senior Advocate, would be required.
Lawyers Nandita Rao and Farrukh Rashid had filed a writ petition in the High Court alleging that this prerequisite of recommendation from three senior advocates is not based on the point system and is ultra vires of the Constitution as they create a “subjective entry barrier” to designation.
It was also alleged that “the entry barrier of three recommendations from senior advocates and the number of recommendations they can give are completely subjective and have no nexus with the rational criteria for selection of senior advocate stipulated by the Supreme Court thereby making the said rules arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution”.
A division bench of the High Court comprising the then Chief Justice RajendraMenon and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani after hearing the petition on May 15, 2019 had required the Full Court to reconsider the rule under challenge and report back to the bench on the outcome of the reconsideration.
The High Court had also ordered that applications submitted by advocates desirous of being designated as senior advocates should be accepted even if submitted without recommendations by senior advocates, subject to their fulfilling all other conditions contained in the rules.
It is in this view of the matter, a full court decided to modify the rule as follows-
“(7) Procedure for designation of an Advocate as Senior Advocate. An advocate may be considered by the High Court for being designated as Senior Advocate either (A) Suo Motu by the High Court or (B) on an application by an Advocate.
(A) Procedure Suo Motu:
An Advocate who fulfils the eligibility conditions prescribed hereinbefore, may be considered suomoto by the High Court for being designated as a Senior Advocate either on the written proposal of a Judge of the High Court or of Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Such written proposal of a Judge or of Hon’ble the Chief Justice shall be sent to the Registrar General who shall forward it to the Secretariat after obtaining a consent-cum personal information sheet (Annexure-A to these Rules) duly filled in and signed by the Advocate concerned.
7(B) Procedure on application by an Advocate:’ Any Advocate who fulfils the eligibility conditions prescribed he.reinbefore may submit a written application for being designated as Senior Advocate to the Registrar General who shall forward it to the Secretariat after obtaining a consent-cum-personal information sheet (Annexure-A to these Rules) duly filled in and signed by the Advocate concerned.”
As per the public notice issued on August 14, 2019, the High Court has also informed that the application, in the prescribed format, may be submitted to the Secretariat of the Committee for Designation of Senior Advocate latest by 4.30 PM on August 31, 2019.
In 2015, senior advocate Indira Jaising had approached the Supreme Court seeking a fair and transparent procedure for the designation of senior advocates. The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment on October 12, 2017 ruled that a committee, indicating a point-based format for assessment of applications, would deal with the process of designation.
In compliance with the said order of the apex court, the High Courts across the country have been making afresh rules for conferring senior designation on the advocates in tune with the guidelines laid down in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India case.
Read the Public Notice issued by the Delhi HC: