In a major and significant development, the Supreme Court which is the highest court in India has for the second time designated 37 lawyers as “Senior Advocates”. It goes without saying that it is a big honour for all these 37 lawyers to be designated as “Senior Advocates”. But then they deserve also as they have given their “prime years” in this noble profession of lawyer and that too right in the Apex Court itself and have certainly worked hard relentlessly to achieve it.
So, it goes without saying that they certainly deserve all the “applause and accolades” which they are now getting! We all as citizens of India also ought to know as to who all are these 37 lawyers who have been designated as “Senior Advocates”. They are as follows: –
1. Madhavi Goradia Divan
2. R. Balasubramanian
3. Anitha Shenoy
4. Aruneshwar Gupta
5. Jugal Kishore Tikamchand Gilda
6. Sanjay Parikh
7. Preetesh Kapur
8. Ashok Kumar Sharma
9. Deepak Madhusudan Nargolkar
10. Ajit Shankarrao Bhamse
11. Nikhil Nayyar
12. S. Wasim A. Qadri
13. M.G. Ramachandran
14. Manish Singhvi
15. Gopal Sankaranarayanan
16. Mohan Venkatesh Katarki
17. Nakul Dewan
18. Devadatt Kamat
19. Anip Sachthey
20. Anupam Lal Das
21. G. Venkatesh Rao
22. Jayanth Muth Raj
23. Arijit Prasad
24. Jay Savla
25. Aparajita Singh
26. Menaka Guruswamy
27. Siddhartha Dave
28. Siddharth Bhatnagar
29. C.N. Sreekumar
30. Aishwarya Bhati
31. Santosh Paul
32. Gaurav Bhatia
33. Bharat Sangal
34. Vinay Prabhakar Navare
35. Manoj Swarup
36. Ritin Rai
37. Priya Hingorani.
Needless to say, this is the second instance of Supreme Court conferring senior designation as per the “Supreme Court Guidelines to Regulate Conferment of Designation of Senior Advocates, 2018”, notified in August 2018. It must be pointed out here that out of these 37 advocates designated as “Senior Advocates”, six are women lawyers who have made a mark for themselves by excelling. They are Aishwarya Bhati, Anitha Shenoy, Madhavi Goradia Divan, Menaka Guruswamy, Priya Hingorani and Aparajita Singh. It would be apt to know in brief about these six women lawyers now designated as “Senior Lawyers”.
To be sure, Madhavi Divan is at present an Additional Solicitor General (ASG) in the Supreme Court. She was appointed ASG on December 17, 2018 and will hold office till June 30, 2020. She obtained her law degree from Pembroke College, Uniersity of Cambridge, UK and began her practice in the Bombay High Court. She has since represented two state governments – that of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh while also being recognized as an accomplished author. Anitha Shenoy is a 1995 graduate of National Law School of India University, Bangalore and has been the standing counsel for State of Karnataka in the Supreme Court for long.
Furthermore, Menaka Guruswamy is a 1997 graduate of National Law School of India University, Bangalore. She read law as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where she was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Law (D. Phil.) and as a Gammon fellow for a Masters in Law at Harvard Law School. She has worked as a human rights consultant to the United Nations and has taught at the New York University School of Law. In the Navtej Johar case which decriminalized homosexuality, she represented IIT students and graduates who belong to the LGBTQIA community. She has also assisted the Supreme Court as amicus curiae in the Manipur Extra-Judicial killings case. She has the rare honour of having her portrait unveiled at Rhodes House in Oxford University. Her name was also included in the Forbes list of 2019 trailblazers which is a great achievement.
Moving on, Aishwarya Bhati is an Advocate-on-Record. In 2017 she was appointed as Additional Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh in Supreme Court. She did not hide her true feelings and termed the “Senior Advocate” designation as a “dream come true” and also acknowledged that she was conscious of the “great responsibility” that comes with the designation.
Going ahead, Priya Hingorani has been in active law practice since 1990 when she was enrolled as an Advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi. Her primary practice has been in the Supreme Court of India and has also appeared in many High Courts. Aparajitha Singh was a junior to “Senior Advocates” Harish Salve and UU Lalit before starting independent practice. She had assisted the Apex Court as amicus curiae to suggest measures for curbing air pollution, which led to the ban of sale of BS III vehicles since April 2017. She was also a part of a Committee which had suggested a common working plan on rehabilitation of destitute widows.
To put things in perspective, it was in September 2018 that the Supreme Court had designated 25 former High Court Judges, who started practice in Supreme Court as senior advocates. It cannot be lost on us that the guidelines are notified pursuant to the Supreme Court judgment in Indira Jaising’s case titled “Ms Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India Through Secretary General and others in Writ Petition (C) No. 454 of 2015 which had very clearly prescribed the parameters for designation of advocates as “senior advocates” after senior advocate Ms Indira Jaising who filed the petition pointed out that the present system of designating advocates as “senior advocates” is flawed! This was certainly a major landmark development which shall always be embedded in the golden pages of history and the contribution of Ms. Indira Jaising is certainly historic and remarkable!
What’s more, the guidelines empower a permanent committee called “Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates” to deal with all the matters pertaining to such conferment. This Committee shall comprise of the Chief Justice of India as its Chairperson, along with two seniormost Supreme Court Judges, Attorney General for India and a member of the Bar as nominated by the Chairperson and other members. The Committee is expected to meet at least twice in a calendar year. It will also have a Permanent Secretariat, the composition of which shall be decided by the CJI in consultation with the other members of the Committee.
Be it noted, it would be very significant to now discuss in detail the four point criteria that will play a key role in the assessment of advocates as “Senior Advocates”. Every advocate who aspires to become a “Senior Advocate” must know about this. Even otherwise it would be useful even for those not in this field to know about it so that they understand what it means to be a “Senior Advocate”. The four point criteria for assessment of advocates for senior designation is as follows: –
1. Number of years of practice of the applicant from the date of enrolment (10 points for 10-20 years of practice, 20 points for practice beyond 20 years) – 20 points
2. Judgments (reported and unreported), which indicate the legal formulations advanced by the Advocate in the course of proceedings of the case; pro-bono work done by the Advocate; and domain expertise of the Advocate in various branches of law – 40 points
3. Publications by the Advocate – 15 points
4. Test of personality and suitability on the basis of interview/interaction – 25 points
Application and eligibility
It would be useful and instructive to mention here that a recommendation in writing can be submitted by the Chief Justice of India or any other Judge of the Supreme Court of India if they are of the opinion that an advocate deserves to be conferred with the designation. An Advocate on Record (AoR) who is seeking to be conferred with the unique distinction as “Senior Advocate” may also submit an application in the prescribed format to the Secretariat. The Secretariat will invite applications from retired Chief Justices or Judges of the High Court and advocates seeking conferment of the distinction every year in the months of January and July. The notice shall be published on the official Supreme Court website, and the information would also be provided to the Supreme Court Bar Association and also to the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association.
As far as eligibility is concerned, it has to be borne in mind that an Advocate shall be eligible for designation as “Senior Advocate” only if he has 10 years combined standing as an advocate or a District Judge, or as a Judicial Member of any Tribunal whose qualification for eligibility isn’t less than that prescribed for a District Judge. It must also be remembered that retired Chief Justices or Judges of the High Courts are also eligible for the distinction of being designated a “Senior Advocate”.
Procedure for designation
It must be reiterated that all the applications and written proposals are to be submitted to the Secretariat which will then compile data on the applicant’s reputation, conduct and integrity, including his participation in pro bono work and the number of judgments in which the advocate appeared during the past five years. The application or the proposal would then be published on the Supreme Court website. The whole point of this exercise would be to invite the suggestions and views of other stakeholders. After the data-base on the Advocate is complied, the Advocate’s case would be put before the Committee for further scrutiny, which will assess the candidates on the basis of four-point criteria which has already been discussed above in great detail.
Simply put, post such overall assessment, the Advocates candidature would then be submitted to the Full Court, which would then vote on the same. It must be noted here that the guidelines however leave no room for doubt by clarifying in no uncertain terms that the cases of retired Chief Justices and Judges of the High Courts will straightaway be sent to the Full Court for its consideration. The Rules also further specify that voting by secret ballot will not normally be resorted to in the Full Court except when “unavoidable”.
While continuing in the same vein, it is then added that the guidelines however do clarify that cases which are rejected by the Full Court can be considered afresh after two years and cases which are deferred can be considered after one year from such deferment. The Rules clarify that if a Senior Advocate is found guilty of conduct, which according to the Full Court disentitles the Senior Advocate to continue to be worthy of the designation, the Full Court may review its decision to designate the person concerned and recall the same. The Full Court should, however, give an opportunity of hearing to the concerned Senior Advocate before any action is taken against them.
Let me say this point blank: Each and every person who is in legal field must know how advocates are designated as “Senior Advocates” in Supreme Court. Not stopping here, it has to be said that even those who are not in legal profession must also know what it takes to become “Senior Advocates”. A humble effort has been made in this direction by me to make my esteemed readers more aware on this front. Hope that they have found it useful!