The Madras High Court has, with a view to bringing in transperency and objectivity to the selection process for designation of an advocate as a “senior advocate” under section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961, issued Notification No. 298/2013 dated 24.10.2013 setting out the criteria for the designation.
Broadly, the requirements are the following:
(i) The advocate should have 15 years standing at the Bar and his annual professional income should not be less than Rs. 7 lakhs for the past three years;
(ii) There should be at least 15 judgements where the advocate has contributed to the growth of law in the preceeding three years;
(iii) it is made clear that the main criteria for designation as Senior Advocate is the calibre, merit, ability and academic distinction of the Advocate concerned, including his/her character, conduct and behaviour towards the court and members of the Bar.
It is also provided that the senior advocate should have at least two juniors in his chamber. Also, he is not permitted to draft or sign pleadings or to directly give consultation to any litigant. It is also provided that the senior advocate has always to be assisted by another Advocate.
The Rules also provide that a senior advocate can be stripped of his designation if he acts in breach of the undertaking given or commits professional misconduct/ displays intemperate behaviour in Court.
It is worth noting that there are a few interesting differences in comparision to the Rules framed by the Bombay High Court. For instance, while the Madras Rules require that the professional income should not be less than Rs. 7.5 lakhs, the Bombay Rules require that the tax paid on the professional income should not be less than Rs. 7.50 lakhs. Also, while the Madras Rules require the advocate to have 15 judgements to his credit (in the preceding 3 years), the Bombay Rules require that he should have 10 reported judgements to his credit (in his lifetime). Further, while the Madras Rules mandate that the senior should have at least two juniors in his chamber, there is no such requirement in the Bombay Rules. The selection process also differs. While the Bombay Rules requires a 2/3 majority of Judges voting in secret ballot, the Madras Rules provide for a committee of 10 judges to decide. If the Committee is not unanimous in their decision, the decision is left to the Chief Justice.