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#Senior Designations: “Apart from success, integrity and conduct in court should also be considered”, AG KK Venugopal

#Senior Designations: “Apart from success, integrity and conduct in court should also be considered”, AG KK Venugopal

Murali Krishnan

The final hearing in the challenge to the process of senior designations filed by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising commenced today in the Supreme Court.

The case is being heard by a 3-judge Bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Rohinton Nariman and Navin Sinha.

Jaising appeared and argued in person today and completed her submissions.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, who is assisting the Court in the matter, was on his legs when the Bench rose for the day.

Jaising, in her submissions, relied extensively on the results of the survey conducted by Bar & Bench.

She submitted that the current procedure followed by the Court should be discarded in favour of a more transparent system, which will consider various aspects, including integrity, pro bono work, expertise in specialised areas of law etc. She also pointed out the practices prevalent in various foreign jurisdictions to buttress her case.

After she made her submissions, the Attorney General began.

Venugopal did not oppose the validity of the current Rules in place for conferring the gown on lawyers.

He, however, said,

“Senior Advocate occupies a position on a higher footing when compared to non-Senior advocates. A Senior Advocate is an advocate who by virtue of his knowledge and experience is likely to put across a case much better than a non-senior. That is, however, not a thumb rule and many non-seniors are also equally good.”

Venugopal then said that since Senior designations are held in high esteem and something which every practicing lawyer yearns for, the Court should be extremely circumspect when making Senior designations.

“Court should be very circumspect when awarding such designations because Your Lordships are certifying that a person who is being conferred gown will be able to perform his duties better than non-seniors. So only meritorious persons with high standing should be designated”, he submitted.

Venugopal then proceeded to make some interesting arguments.

“There could be successful lawyers who have misled the court or suppressed relevant facts which should have been disclosed. Such persons will not be able to uphold the integrity of the profession. So success alone should not be a criteria for designating lawyers as seniors; Integrity and conduct should be considered”.

He also alluded to another category of lawyers.

“There are lawyers who raise their voices and shout down judges etc. Many judges let it go while some take objection. Senior Advocates should avoid such conduct”, he said.

He also submitted that the number of cases in which a lawyer is being briefed despite being a non-senior, age of the lawyer etc., should be relevant criteria to be considered by the Court while conferring the Senior gown.

The matter will now be heard on August 29.