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A-G, members of Bar in decision-making process
The Supreme Court on Thursday took a big step towards introducing transparency in selecting senior advocates of Supreme Court and High Courts by involving the Attorney General (Advocate General in case of High Courts) and members of the Bar in the decision-making process. Till now, judges used secret ballot to vote for each aspiring candidate and the choices were never made public.
Reforming the age old system, a Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, RF Nariman and Navin Sinha laid down an elaborate set of guidelines to be followed by SC and all HCs by setting up a permanent Secretariat to do a background check of all candidates who apply to become senior advocate. The scrutiny shall be with regard to reputation, conduct, integrity of the advocate, his/her participation in pro-bono (without legal fees) work, reported judgments in the last five years where the advocate has contributed, and any published works.
The list will be forwarded to a five-judge Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates headed by Chief Justice of India for SC and respective Chief Justices of High Courts will scrutinize these names and interview the candidate. This is the first time ever such a Secretariat and a Permanent Committee is put in place to deal with selection of senior advocates.
This committee, to be set up in SC and all HCs, shall have two senior most judges and Attorney General (in case of SC) or Advocate General (in case of HC) as members. These four members will nominate a lawyer from the Bar as the fifth member. The names of candidates will be published on the official website of SC/HC to invite suggestions/views from stakeholders following which the Committee shall interview them and place the selected names before the Full Court of SC/HC, who will vote either by consensus or secret ballot.
The decision of the Court came on a petition filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising. A separate set of petitions challenged Section 16 of Advocates Act 1961 providing for senior advocates, which the bench dismissed.
The Committee shall grade candidates based on number of years (below 20 years - 10 points, above 20 years - 20 points), reported judgments (40 points), publications (15 points) and final interview (25 points).
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