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A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Senior Designation guidelines notified by twenty-four high courts across the country.
Filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the petition states that the guidelines issued by the high courts are inconsistent with those issued by the Supreme Court in the Indira Jaising judgment.
The following are the broad grounds for the challenge:
Lack of clarity on the forum where an Advocate should have practiced
The petition states that different high courts have differing guidelines on this issue. The guidelines notified by the High Courts of Bombay, Chhattisgarh, Patna, and Jammu & Kashmir require an advocate to have practiced for at least ten years in that High Court in order to be eligible for Senior Designation. On the other hand, the guidelines pertaining to the High Courts of Punjab & Haryana, Karnataka, Delhi, Gauhati, Meghalaya, Orissa, and Tripura allow advocates who have practiced for at least ten years in subordinate courts as well to be eligible.
Further, the High Courts of Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Allahabad, and Gujarat consider advocates who have practiced for at least ten years anywhere in India.
Minimum age and years of practice
It is stated that some high courts also impose a minimum age requirement, contrary to the directions in the Indira Jaising judgment. Others impose requirements that contradict the guidelines, such as requiring advocates to have practiced for at least fifteen years in order to be eligible for Senior Designation. Examples of this include:
“While the High Court of Hyderabad appears to consider Advocates having practiced anywhere in India for at least ten years as eligible, at least seven of those years of practice are required to have been before the High Court. The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, while limiting the acceptable forum of practice to the High Court, has an additional requirement that the Advocate must be at least 40 years old.
The High Court of Madhya Pradesh, while not specifying a particular forum of practice, requires that the Advocate must have practiced for at least fifteen years. The High Court of Manipur also appears to consider Advocates having practiced anywhere in India for at least ten years as eligible, but at least five of those years of practice are required to have been before the High Court of Manipur or its subordinate courts… the Advocate must be at least 35 years old and must be a permanent resident of Manipur.”
Reference is also made to the guidelines laid down by the Calcutta High Court, which recently called for certain modifications of the same on the judicial side.
“…Guideline 11, which deals with applications made by Advocates to be designated Senior Advocates, originally required an Advocate to be “regularly practising in the High Court” in order to be eligible for designation. This requirement was deleted by a Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta in its judgment dt. 31.01.2019 in Debasish Roy v. The High Court at Calcutta…
…However, the High Court in the Debasish Roy judgment appears to have overlooked Guideline 12, which deals with names of Advocates being proposed by the Hon’ble Judges of the High Court, for designation as Senior Advocates. Guideline 12 in its present form continues to limit the eligible Advocates to those who are “regularly practicing in the High Court”.”
Disclosure of Income
Upadhyay contends in his petition that some high courts require advocates to disclose their professional income, despite the fact that Indira Jaising judgment makes it clear that income is not a relevant factor to determine eligibility for Senior Designation.
“require Advocates to either disclose their professional income (in the case of the High Courts of Himachal Pradesh, Allahabad, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Patna and Sikkim), or require the Advocates to have been income tax assessees for a certain period of time (in the case of the High Courts of Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, and Patna), or require a certain minimum income (in the case of the High Court of J & K, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Madras and Sikkim)…”
Therefore, the petition states,
“…the inconsistencies in the guidelines introduced by various High Courts, defeat the objective with which this Hon’ble Court had laid down the Prescribed Guidelines in the Indira Jaising judgment, namely, that of uniformity of guidelines governing the designation of Senior Advocates.”
On these grounds, Upadhyay has prayed that the Supreme Court pass orders:
Read the petition: