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Political ideology of lawyers key to promotion, says survey

The Supreme Court and state high courts designate eligible lawyers as senior, either suo motu or after inviting applications

As the Supreme Court hears a petition seeking transparency in the manner advocates are designated senior advocates, a nationwide independent survey has found that almost 75 per cent of respondents believe that the process of designation is “discriminatory on the ground of political ideology or allegiance”.

According to the survey conducted by legal portal Bar and Bench, an overwhelming majority feels that a lawyer has a better chance of being designated senior if somebody in his family is already a designated senior. Over 95 per cent respondents said there should be a uniform system across all high courts for designation of senior advocates.

The Supreme Court and state high courts designate eligible lawyers as senior, either suo motu or after inviting applications. But the process is shrouded in mystery and except for the judges — generally the decision is taken at a meeting of the full court where all judges are present, with secret voting also taking place in many cases — nobody knows what criteria, if any, is adopted by the court while arriving at the decision.

Last year, senior advocate Indira Jaising filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking judicial scrutiny of the existing process. “There is no transparency in the procedure, no criteria laid down for determining excellence in advocacy and no rational nexus between the persons designated and their excellence or no rational reason for rejection of persons of eminence and ability,” her petition stated.

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A bench headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur had appointed Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi amicus curiae in the case. In his report to the court, the AG favoured changes to the existing system of designation, adding that the full court should consider names only after scrutiny by another body.

A total of 807 people, including senior advocates, law students and non-lawyers, took part in the survey. Pallavi Saluja of Bar and Bench said: “The issue of senior designation has always been a topic of private debate. What we wanted to do was to bring this debate from the private to the public domain. Indira Jaising’s petition has raised important issues, and we thought the survey was a great way in getting the legal community’s opinion out into the open and before the courts.”

First published on: 24-04-2016 at 01:48 IST
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