Lawyers seeking 'senior' designation will no longer need the recommendation from three senior advocates of the Bar, given they fulfil all the eligibility criteria, as the Delhi High Court Wednesday stayed the earlier rule. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani directed the matter to be placed before a full court for reconsidering the rule mandating recommendation from a panel of three senior advocates.
The bench also asked the high court registry to issue a public notice about the stay of the rule as well as its reconsideration by the full court. The High Court of Delhi Designation of Senior Advocate Rules, 2018, notified on March 13, states that an advocate may be considered by the high court for being designated as a senior either through a suo motu action or on a joint proposal by three senior advocates.
The plea by lawyers Nandita Rao and Farrukh Rashid, filed through advocate Ruchi Singh, alleged that this prerequisite of recommendation from three senior advocates is not based on the point system and is ultra vires of the Constitution as they create a "subjective entry barrier" to the designation. Senior advocate Siddhartha Dave, who appeared for the two lawyers, said the notification restricts meritorious candidates from applying thus bypassing the objective system laid down by the Supreme Court.
"The entry barrier of three recommendations from senior advocates and the number of recommendations they can give are completely subjective and have no nexus with the rational criteria for selection of senior advocate stipulated by the Supreme Court thereby making the said rules arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution," the plea has said. The power vested upon the court to form an opinion on the ability of an advocate to be designated as a senior cannot be delegated to senior advocates of the same Bar without any statutory mandate for such delegation, it has said.
It has contended that such a requirement of three recommendations creates an artificial and opaque gateway to the process of getting designated thus preventing access to professional advancement for young, meritorious and aspiring lawyers. It has alleged that this requirement of getting a recommendation from seniors "creates a monopoly" and with no restrictions on recommending chamber juniors and briefing counsels, such recommendations are "subjective and promote a coterie rather than merit and excellence".
The plea has also alleged that all the senior lawyers have been "pre-booked" by lawyers applying for designation and have issued letters favouring lawyers, without consideration of merits as stipulated by the apex court.
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