What it means to be ?senior advocate?
EIGHT LAWYERS of the High Court?four at Allahabad and four at its Lucknow Bench?have all the reasons to feel elated. A full court meeting, held on April 29 last and attended by 60 judges, decided by a simple majority to designate them as ?senior advocates?. The remaining 27 aspirants, including High Court Bar Association president Chhotey Lal Pandey, missed the bus as there were not as many ?yeses? from participating judges as to constitute a majority vote in their favour at the meeting.Updated: May 08, 2006 00:59 IST
EIGHT LAWYERS of the High Court—four at Allahabad and four at its Lucknow Bench—have all the reasons to feel elated. A full court meeting, held on April 29 last and attended by 60 judges, decided by a simple majority to designate them as “senior advocates”. The remaining 27 aspirants, including High Court Bar Association president Chhotey Lal Pandey, missed the bus as there were not as many ‘yeses’ from participating judges as to constitute a majority vote in their favour at the meeting.
SMA Kazmi, present UP Advocate General, Vinod Prakash Srivatava, VK Singh and SPS Raghav were the four lucky ones of the Allahabad High Court, and those sharing with them the joy of the exalted status at the Lucknow Bench included Kapil, Mohammad Arif Khan, Prashant Chandra (son of former advocate general Umesh Chandra) and Vinod K Singh.
The Advocates Act of 1961 speaks of only two kinds of advocates— “advocates” and “senior advocates”. Section 16(2) provides that an advocate may be designated as “senior advocate” only if the Supreme Court or a High Court is of the opinion that “by virtue of his ability, standing at the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law”, he is deserving of such distinction”.
A decision as to who among the lawyers, proposed by a sitting judge, deserves to be designated as “senior advocates” is taken by a majority vote by the judges present at a full court meeting. It was at such a full court meeting on April 29 that only eight of 35 names proposed could see fulfillment of their cherished wish.
The new anointed ones now get the privilege of donning the jacket and gown that only judges wear. But what it really means to be a “senior advocate”? As the Supreme Court observed in AIR 1987 SC 1550, senior advocates not only carry “greater responsibilities by virtue of the pre-eminence” which they enjoy in the profession, but they also act as a “model to the junior members” of the profession.
A senior advocate, the apex court added, more or less occupies a position akin to a “Queen’s Counsel in England”, next after the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. It is an “honour and privilege” conferred on advocates of “standing and experience” by the Chief Justices and the judges of the court.
Interestingly, SMA Kazmi, only a little over a couple of years back, had missed being designated as a “senior advocate” for want of a majority vote in his favour at the judges’ meeting. However, he was appointed recently as the UP Advocate General by the Mulayam Singh government.
It seemed queer that one who was not even a designated “senior advocate” was considered by the government fit for the Constitutional post of advocate general. Notably, eminent jurist HM Seervai, in one of his books, had observed that the advocate general occupied the distinct position of being the “de jure leader” of the Bar of the State. The mind-boggling anomaly of SMA Kazmi not being even a “senior advocate” and still being the state’s advocate general is over now.
On the other hand, the fate of Chhotey Lal Pandey remains stubbornly unchanged.
He had missed the bus a little more than two years back, though he had by then won the controversial poll for the prestigious Bar Association presidentship.
This time again, despite his being back for the second time to the elective post of the Association president, he failed to get a majority vote at the full court meeting on April 29.
Rather than fret and fume, Chhotey Lal Pandey should do some soul-searching to decipher what keeps him undeserving for the coveted status of “senior advocate”.
And also, more importantly, those already designated as “senior advocates” (they number now 61 at Allahabad) would do well to ponder over occasionally if they have really been endeavouring, in thoughts and professional deeds, to prove, in the words of the apex court again, worthy of the “honour and privilege” conferred on them by the Chief Justice and the judges of the court.
The rating, if any, can best be provided by the junior members of the Bar for whom, again in the words of the apex court, “senior advocates” are expected to act as “role models”.