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Bar on seeking adjournments, minimum age of 45/15 years of practice: Madras HC notifies Senior Advocate Designation Rules, 2020

One restriction prescribed by the Madras High Court now is that a Senior Advocate cannot ask for adjournments or appear to make mentions.

Meera Emmanuel

The Madras High Court is the latest to join the list of High Courts that have issued rules for the process of designating Senior Advocates following the Supreme Court's 2017 ruling in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court and anr.

Titled the Madras High Court Designation of Senior Advocates Rules, 2020, the Rules prescribe the qualification criteria, privileges and the process of Senior Advocate designation.

In line with the Supreme Court's ruling, the matters concerning designation of Senior Advocates at the High Court would be dealt with by a Permanent Committee headed by the Chief Justice and comprising two senior-most judges, the Advocate General and a Senior Advocate nominated by the Committee members. The process of scrutiny has been detailed in the Rules.

Applications for Senior Advocate designation in Tamil Nadu would first be scrutinized by a Secretariat before it is referred to the Permanent Committee.

Thereafter, the decision on whether to confer the Senior Gown would ultimately rest on the decision of the Full Court. Decisions would be taken by majority vote, and the Chief Justice would get a second vote in the event of a tie.

The Rules, however, are unique in certain respects, including on the aspect of a minimum age criterion for advocates who do not have any judicial experience.

Minimum Age introduced as an alternative criterion

The Rules have brought in a minimum age bar as one of the alternative criteria for designation.

When the issue was considered by the Supreme Court, it had mused that the years of practice should be weighted over a minimum age criterion when it comes to Senior designations.

In this regard, the Apex Court's judgment had read,

"Insofar as age is concerned, we are inclined to take the view that instead of having a minimum age with a provision of relaxation in an appropriate case it would be better to go by the norm of 10 years practice at the Bar which is also what is prescribed by Article 217 of the Constitution as a condition of eligibility for being considered for appointment as a Judge of the High Court.”

The qualification criteria as contained in Rule 4 of the Madras High Court's Rules are as follows:

  • The applicant-advocate must have completed 45 years of age and is ordinarily practising in the Madras High Court or its Bench at Madurai and Courts Subordinate to it, including Tribunals for not less than 10 years preceding the date of consideration of his application for designation as Senior Advocate; OR

  • The advocate has 15 years combined standing as an Advocate or a District and Sessions Judge, or as a Judicial Member of any Court or Tribunal in India whose qualification for eligibility for such appointment, is not less than that prescribed for appointment as a District Judge; and

  • The advocate is an Income-tax assessee for the previous 10 consecutive years.

  • The advocate exhibits distinction and eminence for legal acumen and special knowledge and maintains integrity, reputation and high ethical standards expected of a Senior Advocate both inside and outside the Court.

  • The advocate has 15 judgments to his credit, in the preceding five years, where he has contributed to the growth of law.

  • The Permanent Committee and the Full Court shall take into account the caliber, merit and ability and academic distinction of the Advocate concerned, including his character, conduct and behavior towards the court and other members of the Bar.

Bar on Senior Advocates from seeking adjournments

A Senior Advocate designation comes with the following privileges:

  • A preferential right of audience in all Courts according to seniority;

  • A Senior Advocate shall be entitled to wear special robes meant for Senior Advocates;

  • A Senior Advocate shall be entitled to such other rights and privileges conferred by the practice of Senior Advocate under the Advocates Act, 1961.

However, these privileges also come with certain restrictions. Interestingly, one such restriction prescribed by the Madras High Court now is that a Senior Advocate cannot ask for adjournments or appear to make mentions.

Among other restrictions, a Senior Advocate cannot:

  • file any Vakalat or Memo of Appearance.

  • appear before any court, tribunal or judicial authority unless assisted by another Advocate.

  • directly give consultation to any litigant.

  • appear for mentioning any matter to the Court nor seek an adjournment in any Court.

  • accept an instruction to draw pleadings or affidavits.

  • advise on evidence or do any drafting or work of an analogous nature in any Court or Tribunal, or undertake conveyancing work of any kind whatsoever. However, these prohibitions shall not extend to settling any such matter as aforesaid in consultation with an instructing advocate.

  • be a standing counsel of any Government, Public Sector undertaking, institution or local corporate body and if he holds such a position, he shall resign or relinquish the same upon being designated a Senior Advocate.

Advocates involved (at the stage of framing of charge or if convicted) in any offence characterised as that of moral turpitude, or who have been convicted or have proceedings pending against them for professional misconduct or contempt of court are not eligible for designaton as Senior Advocates.

Once granted, the Senior Advocate Designation can also be withdrawn by a Full Court if any of the above circumstances arise.

Read the Rules:

Madras High Court Designation of Senior Advocates Rules, 2020.pdf
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