New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday laid down guidelines for itself and 24 High Courts to govern the exercise of designating lawyers as seniors and ordered setting up of a committee headed by the Chief Justice of India, which would be assisted by a secretariat.
A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, rejected the plea that section 16 of the 1961 Advocates Act, which empowers the apex court or a High Court to designate senior advocates, should be held as unconstitutional.
"It is not an uncontrolled, unguided, uncanalised power, though in a given case its exercise may partake such a character. However, the possibility of misuse cannot be a ground for holding a provision of the Statute to be constitutionally fragile...
"Possible consequences arising from a wrong/improper exercise of power cannot be a ground to invalidate the provisions of Section 16 of the Act," the bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha, said.
Disposing four petitions including one filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising, the bench, in its 112-page judgement, laid down as many as 11 guidelines to effectively deal with the process of designating lawyers as seniors.
"All matters relating to designation of senior advocates in the Supreme Court and in all the High Courts of the country shall be dealt with by a Permanent Committee to be known as 'Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates'," it said.
The panel will be headed by the CJI and consist of two senior-most Judges of the apex court or "High Court(s), as may be," and the Attorney General or the Advocate General of a state in case of a High Court will be its member, it said.
On giving the Bar representation, it said "the four Members of the Permanent Committee will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth Member of the Permanent Committee".