When an advocate is counted as senior,superior to the rest

The Supreme Court has designated three women as senior advocates.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | Published: September 6, 2013 12:39 am

The Supreme Court has designated three women as senior advocates. A look at what the designation means:

What is a senior advocate?

‘Senior advocate’ is a designation that can be conferred on lawyers in the Supreme Court or high courts. It is a recognition of their superior ability and their standing at the bar.

How are senior advocates designated?

The Advocates Act,1961,empowers the Supreme Court and high courts to designate lawyers senior advocates. Different courts have evolved different criteria. In the Supreme Court,a lawyer should have been practising for at least 10 years and his or her name is also expected to be recommended by a minimum of five sitting judges. In some high courts,the minimum number of judges for recommendation of a candidate is two and the designation also requires a lawyer to have a minimum number of courtroom appearances. Some high courts also prescribe a minimum income.

How are applications scrutinised?

On a recommendation,the application of a lawyer is placed before the full court of the Supreme Court or the high court. In the Supreme Court,the Chief Justice may exercise his discretionary power in exceptional cases,but the status is usually granted by the full court unanimously.

How are senior advocates identified in courts?

A designated senior counsel is identified by his black gown that has a rectangular flap attached to the shoulders.

What are perks for being designated as a senior advocate?

Officially,there are no specific advantages of the status. As a matter of fact,while they argue cases in court,they do not file vakalatnamas or draft petitions. However,the status is reflected by the respect and recognition such lawyers get at the bar and from the bench. They,more often than not,also get higher fees than other advocates.

How many senior advocates practise in the Supreme Court?

There were 309 senior advocates,including former judges,designated by the apex court until January 31 this year. On Tuesday,it gave the status to four more advocates,including the three women,taking the number to 313.

What is the historical perspective behind such a status

It draws from a practice followed by the Commonwealth countries. In England,the designation is known as Queen’s Counsel or King’s Counsel. Traditionally,Queen’s Counsels were selected from among barristers. However,since 1994,even solicitors have been considered for the designation.

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