The Supreme Court of India has taken a significant step in reforming the process of designating senior advocates by introducing new guidelines, which supersede the earlier 2017 guidelines. With a focus on transparency and objectivity, the updated regulations aim to establish a more inclusive and comprehensive evaluation process.
Under the newly set criteria, lawyers with a minimum of 10 years of standing in the legal profession and aged 45 years or above are eligible to apply for senior advocate designation. In special cases, the committee responsible for reviewing the applications, comprising the Chief Justice of India (CJI), two senior-most judges, the Attorney General, and a bar representative, may relax the age requirement. Furthermore, the CJI retains the authority to recommend a candidate directly, disregarding the age bar.
Eligibility for senior advocate designation is not solely based on years of practice. Lawyers can qualify with either 10 years of practice or a combined experience of 10 years, inclusive of service as a judicial officer or a judicial member in a tribunal. Lawyers who specialize in practicing before specialized tribunals are granted concessions in terms of the number of appearances in the Supreme Court.
The scrutiny process involves assessing the number of judgments presented by applicants, accounting for a maximum of 50 points. Additionally, legal publications, teaching assignments, and guest lectures in the field of law carry a reduced weightage of 5 points, aiming to provide a holistic reflection of an advocate’s potential to contribute to the development of the law.
The shortlisted candidates will face interviews conducted by the Full Court, which comprises all judges. This segment of the assessment process holds 25 points.
The impetus behind these new guidelines was influenced by the Supreme Court’s previous decision in 2017, with the objective of streamlining the process of designating senior advocates across the board. The revised guidelines seek to ensure a fair and thorough evaluation, considering various aspects of an advocate’s contributions to the legal field.
Lawyers who had previously submitted their applications are encouraged to reapply, modify their existing applications, or withdraw them by August 7, in line with the updated guidelines. Additionally, former chief justices and high court judges remain eligible for senior designation; however, those who have accepted or are in the process of accepting any full-time assignment will not be considered for designation until they no longer hold that assignment.