Legal Practice

How to Become a Senior Counsel in India?

Senior Advocate

A profession of a lawyer is one of the highly responsible and designated ones. Laws related to the advocates are covered under the Advocates Act, 1961 enforced by the Bar Council of India. Under this Act, the Bar Council of India is the supreme regulatory authority that guides and regulates the legal profession in India. It also ensures that professional standards are carried on by legal personnel in the country. A lawyer needs to get himself enrolled with the Bar Council and thereby he is declared as an Advocate who is now duty-bound to conduct himself according to the directions of the Bar.

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Although every advocate is on the same footing when he is enrolled with the Bar Council of India, he may be termed as a senior advocate depending upon the term he is practicing. Although a senior advocate enjoys name and fame, he has to confer higher standards of conduct and responsibility. There are certain prescribed procedures for the senior advocates that they need to follow.  For example, a senior advocate can not interact directly with his client.

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Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 and Rule 2(a) of Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules, 1966 provide certain guidelines that need to be followed for the designation of a senior counsel.

“An advocate may, with his consent, be designated as senior advocate 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.”.[1]

The Chief Justice and the Judges may, with the consent of the advocate, designate an advocate as senior counsel if in their opinion by virtue of his ability, standing at the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law the said advocate is deserving of such distinction.”[2]

From the above-mentioned provisions, we may follow that-

  1. The Cheif Justice and other judges of the concerned court should believe that a particular advocate is fit to hold the position of a senior advocate.
  2. The concerned advocate should have exceptional legal expertise and knowledge of the law.
  3. The consent of such an advocate should be obtained prior.
  4. The selection should be on the sole ground of his knowledge and expertise in the area of law.

In the case of Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary-General & Ors. Various Bar bodies from around the nation were invited by Mukul Rohatgi to formulate new guidelines for the designation of senior advocates. The Court took Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act,1961 and Rule 2(a) Order IV of Supreme Court Rules, 1966 in account while formulating the guidelines.[3]

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Guidelines for Designation of Senior Advocate

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising filed a petition in Supreme Court. As a result “Supreme Court Guidelines to Regulate Conferment of Designation of Senior Advocates, 2018” were given by the Court. It provided for the setting up of a permanent committee for the purpose. The committee came to be known as the “Committee for Designation of Senior Lawyers”.

Structure of the Committee

This committee shall comprise of the Chief Justice of India as its Chairperson, along with two senior-most Supreme Court judges, Attorney general for India, and a member of the Bar as nominated by the Chairperson and other members.

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Procedure for Designation

All the applications for the designation of senior advocates should be submitted to the Secretariat. Secretariat will collect data related to the reputation of the applicant, his work, knowledge, and the number of cases in which the advocate appeared in the past five years. This data is forwarded to the Committee which will decide whether the concerned advocate can be designated as senior or not.

Following things would be considered by the Committee-

  • The number of years of practice of the advocate from the date on which he was enrolled with the Bar. The advocate who has worked for more years would be considered.
  •  Pro-bono work, expertise, and knowledge of the advocate.
  • Publications by the advocate.
  • Personality and suitability of the candidate based on the interview.

The name would be forwarded to the Full Court. They would be required to vote on for the candidate. Cases that are rejected by the Full Court can again be considered but only after a lapse of two years. Further, if a senior advocate violates any of the rules or sets forms of conduct, he would be disentitled from the post.

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A person achieves the position of a senior counsel after years of practice and hard work in the profession. His position is one of the most reputed and respected ones; therefore, he is required to maintain the standards of his job. A senior advocate should maintain the sanctity and purity of his position and carry on the work with all his grace. An advocate is eligible to become a senior advocate by practising for ten years. He may apply at any time after that.

[1] 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961

[2] 2(a) Order IV of Supreme Court Rules, 1966

[3] Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary General & Ors(2017) 9SCC.

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