Indira Jaising Questions Procedure of Designating Sr Advocates in SC

New Delhi
Indira Jaising Questions Procedure of Designating Sr Advocates in SC

Former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising has written a letter to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and other Supreme Court judges questioning the procedure of designating lawyers as senior advocates which allegedly lacked transparency.

The senior advocate said an impression among the lawyers has been growing that there is a bias in conferring the designation and a select category of advocates are preferred.

She also suggested that that CJI should consider setting up a search committee of judges to identify lawyers doing PIL work in environmental or human rights laws and those having specific domain expertise, for conferring of the designation of Senior Advocates.

"The impression has long been growing at the Bar that only relatives of seniors or those who come from particular chambers get designated.

"What is worse, there seems to be an imbalance between caste and communities and I can only hope that this is not conscious as that would go against the ethos of the Constitution by which we are all governed," she said in her letter of April 29.

Jaising, who is the first woman law officer of the country, said the purpose of designation of lawyer as senior advocate was to further the administration of justice by improving the quality of argumentation at the bar, in terms of inputs from seniors with experience or expertise in special branches of law.

"All this is in public interest and the act of designation is not meant to be a largess given by the Judges for individual advancement of a particular lawyer," she said.

Jaising, herself a senior advocate, said the designation was not the privilege of those who handle regular criminal or civil appeals on Mondays and Fridays running from court to court.

"There seems to be an unwritten bias against lawyers who do PIL in environmental law or human rights law cases and those who have domain expertise in the specialised subjects such as International Arbitration, Inter-State Water Disputes, Cyber law, etc.

"Unlike general practitioners who appear regularly, these lawyers appear in the subjects of their expert calling, but that does not mean that they are not fit for designation, quite the contrary, their special knowledge enhances the quality of justice dispensed by the court," Jaising said.

She urged the CJI to consider constituting search committee of judges to identify those lawyers doing PIL work in Environmental law or Human Rights and those lawyers having domain expertise for conferring designation as Senior Advocates.

Critical of the recent designations, Jaising questioned the departure from convention of five sitting judges recommending the candidate for designation and introduction of secret ballot in its place.

"While the ballot may have the merit of giving all Judges a chance of participation in the decision-making, there is no guarantee that a vote reflects that the person has merit. Indeed the system of voting has the disadvantage of encouraging unhealthy and non-transparent lobbying for designation," the senior lawyer added.

She said out of 14 candidates who had recommendations from not less than five Judges, only five have been selected for designation with nothing to indicate why the others were not designated.

"Each of the five Advocates is a general practitioner. Advocates with PIL background and domain expertise have been totally left out," she said.

Jaising in her letter, which was also sent to senior members of Bar like Attorney General Mukul Rohatagi and senior advocates Fali S Nariman, Mohan S Parasaran, P P Rao, Harish Salve and others, also said she had no vested interest in the issue, having been designated way back in 1986 by Bombay High Court.

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