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Senior Designation Has No Strict Age Bar of 45 Years, but Only Exceptional Advocates Can Be Designated Below This Age: SC

Guidelines for Designation of Senior Advocates by the Supreme Court of India, 2023, are new rules that the Supreme Court has released to control how solicitors will be nominated as Senior Advocates in the highest Court. The Supreme Court made it clear on Friday that it is against limiting the designation of Senior Advocate to only those Advocates who are over 45 years old. Candidates who are younger than the specified age should be taken into consideration if they exhibit the necessary additional aptitude.

The Supreme Court Committee that decides on senior designations may also modify the age requirement. Two months after the Supreme Court’s three-judge panel rendered its decision in a comparable case, new guidelines were developed. In the May 2023 ruling, the Court upheld the interview standards used by the Supreme Court and High Courts to appoint attorneys as Senior Advocates, although it cut the weighted score for publications from 15 to 5 points.

The following are some of the guidelines:

Who makes the decisions?

The Permanent Committee, known as the Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates (Committee), shall handle matters pertaining to the designation of Senior Advocates. Five people will make up this committee: the Attorney General of India, the Chief Justice of India (who will serve as Chair), the two senior-most Supreme Court justices, and a member of the bar who will be chosen by the committee’s other members. The Committee would have two annual meetings and a permanent secretariat, whose members would be chosen by the Chief Justice of India after consultation with the other Committee members.

Who is qualified to get the senior gown?

Before being eligible for the title of Senior Advocate, a lawyer must meet the requirements listed below:

Experience: 10 years as an advocate, or 10 years combined as an advocate and a District and Sessions Judge or as a Judicial Member of any Tribunal whose eligibility requirements for appointment are not less than those for appointment as a District Judge.

Practise area: The candidate should spend most of their time in front of the Supreme Court. But there may be a compromise made for applicant-advocates who have subject-matter knowledge and have experience appearing before specialty tribunals.

Age: The candidate must be at least 45 years old unless the Committee relaxes the age restriction or if the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge has recommended their name.

Former judges who have taken or agreed to accept any full-time assignment will not be given consideration for designation as Senior Advocates as long as they occupy that position, including former Chief Justices and judges of the High Courts.

How will the senior gown be awarded to lawyers?

According to the recommendations, there are two modes:

  1. Upon recommendation: The Chief Justice of India or any Supreme Court judge may submit a written recommendation for the designation of any advocate as a senior advocate based on their belief that the advocate (who should primarily practise in the Supreme Court) deserves it due to their standing at the bar or unique legal training or experience.
  2. b) On application: The Committee’s secretariat will invite applications from advocates or advocates-on-record at least once per year to start the senior designation process. The official Supreme Court website would post this. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) will also be informed. Former Chief Justices and High Court Judges may also, at any time, send a letter to the Committee requesting designation, which would then be presented to the Full Court.

In order to evaluate candidates and determine whether they should be classified as Senior Advocates, the rules established a point-based system. Here is how this point-based system functions:

20 points for the total number of years of practise since the date of enrollment: 10 points for the first 10 years, plus 1 point for each consecutive year of practise, up to a maximum of 20 points.

50 points are awarded for both reported and unreported judgements (apart from orders that do not establish any legal principles): It would take into account things like the advocate’s pro bono work and their area of specialisation (constitutional law, interstate water disputes, criminal law, arbitration law, corporate law, family law, human rights, public interest litigation, international law, women’s law, etc.).

Five points are awarded for the writing of scholarly publications, having experience teaching in the legal sector, and giving guest lectures at law firms and other legal-related organisations.For a comprehensive evaluation of the applicant, 25 points are given for the personality test and appropriateness test based on the interview.

Can candidates’ designations be reevaluated?

After two years, all matters that the Full Court did not find in favour of will be revisited or given another chance. This won’t stop the advocate from submitting a High Court application to be designated as a Senior Advocate. All cases that the Full Court has postponed must wait until one year has passed since the date of the judgement before being considered. The advocate may reapply after the allotted time has passed. If an advocate is found guilty of behaviour that the Full Court deems would disqualify them from being designated a Senior Advocate, the Full Court may review its decision and revoke the designation.

Ahir Mitra
Ahir Mitra
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