SC issues notice on Calcutta HC’s challenge against its own judgment modifying senior designation guidelines

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The Apex Court has issued a notice in a Special Leave Petition filed by the Calcutta administration, challenging the judgment delivered in January last year that had partly allowed a plea challenging the High Court’s Senior Advocate designation .

A bench consisting of Chief Justice and Justices BR Gavai and Suryakant passed an order issuing the notice last week.

Advocate Debasish Roy challenged the guidelines, contending that they were arbitrary, vague and violative of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution in September 2018. Following his challenge, the Calcutta High Court had also stalled the Senior Designation process pending its final judgment in the matter.

A Division Bench of Justices IP Mukerjee and Amrita Sinha directed for the amendment of some of the guidelines, finding merit in some of the contentions made by Roy on January 31, 2019.

The Calcutta High Court directed that changes be made so that:

  • Senior Designation not confined to Advocates practicing in higher judiciary alone.
  • There is no provision allowing the Senior Designation Committee the discretion to relax the minimum threshold for qualifying points.
  • Professional income is not a factor in deciding Senior Advocate designations.
  • Pro Bono work from sources other than the Legal Services Authority is not excluded from being considered for Senior Advocate designation.

The Court, therefore, directed that amendments be made to paragraphs 11, 13, 14 and 20 of the Calcutta High Court Senior Designation guidelines, so that they are brought in tune with the Advocates Act, 1961 and the 2017 dictum of the in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India & Ors.

A plea to review this judgment was rejected by the Calcutta High Court in July 2019 and observed that the only remedy available to the applicant is to appeal and that none of the grounds in Order 47 Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure has been made out to justify entertainment of this review application.

And accordingly, the Calcutta High Court administration has appealed to the Supreme Court.

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