The Supreme Court has set up a three-judge bench to hear petitions seeking framing of uniform guidelines for designating lawyers as senior by the apex court and the high courts across the country. “We have already done this. Now the petitions will be heard by a three-judge bench,” Chief Justice J S Khehar said on Thursday. The decision on setting up of the bench was conveyed to senior advocate Indira Jaising, who has filed the PIL in her personal capacity, when she mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a larger bench. “We knew you will mention (the issue). We have done it,” the bench, comprising the CJI and Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said.
Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha had on Wednesday referred to a larger bench the pleas seeking framing of guidelines for designating senior lawyers. It had considered the argument that there should not be a ban on designating lawyers as senior by the apex court and the high courts across the country till the petitions are decided. “So far as designating lawyers as senior is concerned, we leave it to the discretion of the full court of the Supreme Court and the high courts,” the bench had said.
Jaising has sought transparency and overhaul of the “opaque system” of designating lawyers as senior advocate and said the apex court should deal with the matter on the “judicial side” and frame uniform guidelines on the issue.
The court had also tagged with Jaising’s plea a petition pending in the Delhi High Court which challenged the provisions of the Advocates Act relating to designation of lawyers as senior. The petition in the high court has challenged the constitutional validity of sections 16 and 23 (5) of the Advocates Act, 1961 which provide the statutory basis for designation of lawyers as senior advocate.