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Judiciary

Supreme Court Upholds Merit Based Classification of Senior Advocates, Dismisses Writ Petition [Read Judgment]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      17 October, 2023 03:11 PM      0 Comments
Supreme Court Upholds Merit Based Classification of Senior Advocates Dismisses Writ Petition

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said the seniority of advocates is premised on a standardised metric of merit, aimed at forwarding the standards of the profession and the classification is not on arbitrary, artificial or evasive grounds.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, C T Ravikumar and Sudhanshu Dhulia said the court has devised a discernible and transparent mechanism to adjudicate the seniority of advocates in the profession.

The court dismissed a writ petition filed by advocate Mathews Nedumpara by terming his pleadings as "reckless".

He claimed that the senior advocate designation was meant for the kith and kin of judges, senior advocates, politicians, Ministers, etc causing the legal industry being monopolised by a small group of designated advocates, leaving the vast majority of meritorious law practitioners as ordinary plebians receiving discriminatory treatment.

The bench said the writ petition is a "misadventure largely of petitioner number one (Nedumbara) in continuation of some of his past misadventures". The court also noted the petitioner has earlier been convicted of contempt.

"It appears that the judgments and orders passed earlier do not seem to have had any salutary or counselling effect on the petitioner for any self-introspection, but he seeks to carry on a vilification campaign against all and sundry. Obviously, the system is not able to correct him in his approach," the bench said.

The petitioner contended Sections 16 and 23(5) of the Advocates Act, 1961 as well as under Rule 2 of Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 --allowing such designations -- were unconstitutional. He said those provisions violated equality under Article 14 and right to practice any profession under Article 19 as well as right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The bench said his pleadings were completely devoid of merit and justification as it made allegations against all and sundry and ignored the fact that a large number of first generation lawyers from National Law Schools and other prominent Law Schools have made a mark.

"It is alleged that lawyers no longer come to be known for their knowledge, values and erudition but for the manifestation of wealth and the proximity to the Bench. These averments are contemptuous in character, and that too by Petitioner no.1, who already faced conviction for contempt and debarment from this court to practice," the bench said.

The court pointed out the classification of advocates as senior advocates and other advocates under Section 16 of the said Act is a classification made by the legislature in view of a tangible difference established by the practice lawyers have over decades.

It also said the designation as senior advocate carries many inhibitions in the role that they can perform, i.e., they have to appear with an instructing counsel, not draft and file pleadings, and not deal with the litigants, etc. 

[Read Judgment]



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