Opposing the proposal submitted by the Supreme Court Bar Association before the Chief Justice of India for considering lawyers practicing in the SC for elevation as High Court judges, the Delhi High Court Bar Association has written a letter to the Chief Justice of India.
"The attempt to create a distinct class of lawyers practicing before the Hon'ble Supreme Court for being considered for elevation as Judge of the Hon'ble High Court is not only unfair, arbitrary and discriminatory but is likely to create a resentment amongst a large number of lawyers in the High Courts. This will lead to disgruntlement and demoralisation of a large section of the Bar", the DHCBA said in its letter.
The DHCBA has also requested the CJI to withdraw directions, if any, given to the Chief Justices of the High Courts for consideration of Supreme Court lawyers for judgeship at High Courts as proposed by the SCBA.
The issue has its genesis in a communication made by the SCBA earlier this week, in which it said that the CJI has agreed to the proposal to consider lawyers practicing before the Supreme Court for elevation as judges to High Courts.
The SCBA also claimed that "CJI has agreed to the request made by SCBA and has requested the Chief Justices of the High Courts to consider lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court for elevation to their High Courts".
Without appreciating this move of the SCBA, the DHCBA has said "It is a disturbing and matter of grave concern to have lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court alone be considered a separate class of Advocates to be considered for such distinction".
The DHCBA added that "There is no dearth of talented, competent and meritorious lawyers practicing in all the High Courts in the country and in the Courts subordinate to the High Courts."
Wrong perception that Supreme Court lawyers are more meritorious
The DHCBA has taken strong exception to the statement made by the SCBA that Supreme Court lawyers are more meritorious.
"This claim is not only preposterous but in fact humiliates lawyers practicing before other Hon'ble Courts throughout the country. This claim made by the SCBA is not only false and misleading but also undermines the competence and talent of lawyers practicing before the High Courts. It is no secret that several well known jurists have evolved from amongst those exclusively practicing before the High Courts", the letter reads.
SCBA cannot have a "search committee" to screen lawyers for elevation to High Courts
The DHCBA also expressed disapproval of the "Search Committee" constituted by the SCBA to facilitate the process of elevation by identifying deserving and meritorious Supreme Court practitioners.
It pointed out that the practice and procedure for elevating lawyers to the High Courts are based on the recommendations of the Collegium.
"If the so-called "Search Committee" is to forward the names for consideration by the High Courts collegiums, then why should there not a similar search committee be formed by every High Court Bar Association to identify talented and meritorious candidates and forward their names to the High Court Collegium?", the DHCBA asked.
The letter signed by DHCBA President Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur and Secretary Abhijat said :
"Recommending names of lawyers practicing in Supreme Court of India, for elevation to High Courts, without adequate opportunity to the High Court collegium to observe and assess their talent, competence and integrity will neither be fair nor just either for the Institution or for the talented and deserving lawyers practicing before the High Courts. Such recommendations shall also take away the autonomy of the High Court collegium to select candidates regularly practicing to adorn the bench of the High Court based on the assessment of their day-to-day performances. The selection of lawyers by High Court Collegium encourages decentralized decision-making process assessed from ground reality, which benefits not only the Judicial Institution of each state but is also in larger public interest"