Designation as Senior Counsel is a distinction conferred based upon the opinion of the Court and can’t be claimed as a matter of right

Kerala High Court: In an intra court appeal filed by an advocate, P.B. Sahasranaman, against the judgment of a Single Judge Bench dismissing the appellant’s writ petition to consider the matter of his designation as senior counsel in the High Court,  the appeal was dismissed by a Division Bench comprising of Navaniti Prasad Sigh, C.J. and Raja Vijayaraghavan V., J.

After a review petition and a writ petition before the Supreme Court to consider the rejection of him being designated as a senior counsel failed, the appellant filed a writ petition before the Kerala High Court challenging the “Rules Regarding Designation as Senior Advocates, 2000” as being ultra vires the powers granted to the High Court by the Advocates Act of 1961. Another contention was that Rule 6 of the aforementioned Rules, which stated that at least two-thirds of the Judges present at a meeting needed to support an application for designation as senior counsel, should be read as “two-thirds of the Judges present and voting”.

Both the contentions were rejected by the High Court and the writ became only of academic interest since the ballot papers had been destroyed and there was no question of recounting. A question arose if an Advocate could consider it to be a matter of right to be designated as a senior advocate. The court answered it in negative and declared that it is a distinction conferred based upon the opinion of the Court considering “ability, standing at the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law” and that “it is a subjective decision based on objective consideration”.

Also, the Court stated that different High Courts have framed different rules with the aid of the Advocates Act and though the practice of “Judges present and voting” was prevalent, the usage of “Judges present” was held to be a conscious departure in the Kerala High Court Rules of 2000. [Adv. P.B. Sahasranaman v. Kerala High Court, Writ Appeal No. 1500 of 2017, dated 10.08.2017]

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