SC moved against method of designating senior lawyers

New Delhi, (IANS) The Supreme Court was moved Tuesday against the “non-transparent and arbitrary” method of designating senior counsel while people espousing public causes are ignored on account of some “unwritten bias against them”.

The PIL petition contended that the existing system of designating a “senior counsel’ has resulted in severe “discrimination against persons from minority communities, differently-abled and women”.

In the last 15 years from 2000 onwards, only one Dalit has been designated son by the Supreme Court, and only two from the Muslim community, the PIL said.

Challenging the method of voting to designate a lawyer as “senior”, senior advocate Indira Jaising said that a “senior advocate is not something akin to a beauty contest or an election but must be based on an objective evaluation of forensic and academic skills”.

The PIL said that the method of “designation by vote leads to unhealthy lobbying with judges and victimizes ethical lawyers who do not lobby” as it also ignores the past practice where a lawyers with at least five recommendations from judges were ordinarily designated as seniors.

“The lack of transparency”, the PIL says, has “resulted in undesirable outcomes leading to a monopoly of a few senior counsel at the bar and has made legal services by senior lawyers unaffordable and out of reach of ordinary litigant”.

“It has also led to the denial of those who come from different disciplines of law with expert knowledge in specific branches of law,” the PIL said.

It also says that “renowned academicians with several books to their credit, including some who have themselves taught sitting judges are not designated and should be designated as senior counsel”.

“The advocates from backward states like Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand or Bihar have not been designated at all. The advocates from rural background are totally ignored,” it claimed.

“Even with regard to a progressive state like Karnataka, only one advocate has been designated after a gap of 25 years,” it noted, adding that in the “last round of designation, out of five advocates designated, four of them belonged to one caste”.

With regard to advocates who conduct PIL cases and advocates who have confined their practices in the area of their domain expertise, the PIL says that there appears to be “an unwritten bias against them”.

In the last three decades, the Supreme Court has not designated any advocate coming from either of this class, it said.

“The general impression at the bar is that the PIL lawyers who espouse the issues concerning human rights and environmental issues are denied designation for their anti-establishment attitude,” the PIL contends.

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