When jurists across the country are debating changing the existing “non-transparent” process of appointing judges to the higher judiciary, the legal fraternity in the State has now questioned the process of designating lawyers as “Senior Advocates” by the Karnataka High Court.
Not only members of the Advocates’ Association, Bangalore, (AAB) and the Karnataka State Bar Council (KSBC), even several judges of the High Court, though a minority, have raised objections, some even in writing.
The cause for this discontent is the week-old “hurriedly taken” administrative decision of the Full Court of the High Court to designate four “young” advocates as “Senior Advocates”. Two of them are children of former judges.
Several “more experienced” advocates were waiting to get the distinction of “Senior Advocates” as the High Court had indicated to the members of the Bar that it would receive applications for this purpose once comprehensive rules are in place, said a member of the KSBC.
He termed the decision a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before law) as these four advocates were excluded from the application of the proposed rules while others were subjected to them.
The Full Court had deferred at least twice earlier the subject of designating “Senior Advocates” till the finalisation of comprehensive rules, the draft of which was ready in April, said a veteran senior advocate.
The proposal to approve the draft rules and designating seven advocates was on the agenda of the recent meeting of the Full Court. Interestingly, the decision on approving the rules was deferred. However, at the meeting, through “confidential voting” by the judges, it was decided to grant “Senior Advocates” status to four advocates contrary to its earlier resolutions to consider this after the rules were finalised.
All four advocates would have become “ineligible” due to their age and other norms if they were considered under the proposed rules, a KSBC member said.
Interestingly, the other three advocates, who had vast experience, could not get the required number of votes from judges in the confidential voting system, the KSBC member said.
The advocates have also questioned the legality of voting system to decide by a simple majority of judges present in the Full Court meeting for choosing an advocate for grant of status.
“The voting system gives scope for advocates to meet judges to seek their vote, which is not a good practice,” said K.N. Putte Gowda, former president of the AAB.