They are among 8 retired HC judges and 4 lawyers so designated by Full Court

The Full Court of the Supreme Court has designated eight retired judges of High Courts and four lawyers, three of them women, as senior advocates. This reflects the policy of Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam on women empowerment.

The retired judges are S.N. Agarwal and Rakesh Chandra Mishra (from the Madhya Pradesh High Court), Partha Sakha Datta (Calcutta), Ashok Kumar Roopanwal and Yogendra Kumar Sangal (Allahabad), P.R. Raman (Kerala), G. Bhavani Prasad (Andhra Pradesh) and Vinod K. Sharma (Madras). Lawyers: Sushil Kumar Jain, Meenakshi Arora, Kiran Suri and Viba Datta Makhija.

It has now been six years since women lawyers were designated as senior advocates. In August 2007, Indu Malhotra was made senior advocate. No lawyer from Karnataka has been given this recognition since 1989.

According to sources, the Full Court, at its meeting on Tuesday, deferred consideration of one of the applicants for one year. Applicants whose cases were deferred either last year or in previous years for a particular period will be considered at the next meeting, likely in November. For, by that time the deferment period will end. From 1962 till January this year there were 307 lawyers, including retired judges, designated as seniors.

The Supreme Court follows a rigorous procedure for considering the applications of practising advocates. A minimum of five sitting judges are expected to recommend the candidature of a practising advocate. Upon such a recommendation, the application will be placed before the Full Court. Though the CJI has discretionary power in exceptional cases, the status is invariably granted by the Full Court unanimously.

Section 17 of the Advocates Act of 1961 empowers both the Supreme Court and High Courts to designate practising advocates with a 10-year standing in the Bar and those who have completed 45 years of age as senior advocates. The original Act required designation only on the basis of “experience and standing at the Bar.” However, with an amendment in 1993, the requirement has since been “standing at the Bar or special knowledge of experience in Law.”

The designation of senior advocate is a practice followed by Commonwealth countries. In England, the designation is known as Queen’s Counsel or King’s Counsel. Traditionally, Queen's Counsel were selected from among barristers. However, after 1994, even solicitors have been considered for the designation.

Legal experts are unanimous that there must be proper guidelines put in place for the designation and all applications should be disposed of in a time-bound manner, say, in six months. If an application is rejected, the reason must be communicated to the applicant.

According to Supreme Court Bar Association president M.N. Krishnamani, the SCBA formed a committee headed by eminent lawyer Fali Nariman to suggest norms and proper guidelines for designating lawyers as senior advocates. Its report would be submitted to the Full Court for future consideration.

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