The Supreme Court has issued notice on a petition filed by the Calcutta High Court challenging its own judgment that allowed in part the challenge to its own guidelines for designation of advocates as 'senior'.
In its impugned judgment of January, 2019, the High Court was of the view that the Condition stipulating regular practice in the High Court should be omitted. Justice IP Mukerji, observed that the Advocates Act does not prescribe any place of practice or grade of court where an advocate should be practising to be eligible for consideration. In her concurring opinion, Justice Amrita Sinha noted that, in case the advocate is not a regular practitioner of the High court, then the opinion of the Court has to be formed relying upon the judgments in respect of cases in which the advocate appeared.
The provision which provided that in a 'deserving case' the Permanent Committee may relax the benchmark of 60 marks up to a maximum of 10 marks also didn't go down well with the division bench. Justice Sinha observed that providing grace marks to undeserving candidates will mark the beginning of downfall of the standard of the special class of advocate namely 'Senior Advocates'.
Collection of information about the Advocate's pro bono from Legal Service Authority was also found to be unnecessary. "We find that in Sl. No. 8 of the proforma application there is reference to "details of the pro bono work done". We think that once these details are furnished they are either to be accepted or if the Secretariat is directed by the Permanent Committee to verify or collect information, it may do so, working upon the said details furnished. It should be left with the Secretariat to make its own discreet enquiry", the bench said.
Justice Sinha added: "There are as many as six sources mentioned in the said notification. Legal Services Authority is one of them. There may be instances where the concerned advocate has no occasion to associate himself with the said Authority but has conducted pro bono work in respect of other clients. In such a case the concerned advocate shall indicate the pro bono work conducted by him and it will be the Secretariat to verify the said statement."
The court also observed that the requirement of providing professional income for the last five years in the application form is not compatible with the judgment. "Professional income for the reasons given in that judgment is not a factor to be considered at all. In our opinion, the requirement of providing professional income for the last five years in the application form is not compatible with the judgment. Mr. Kar assures us that the income criterion was not taken into account in assessing the suitability of candidates. Moreover, it tends to have a prejudicial effect on the minds of the committee.", Justice Mukerji said.