A senior advocate by virtue of his knowledge and experience occupies a position on a much higher footing than a non-senior advocate, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court today.
The top law officer, however, told a three-judge bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R F Nariman and Navin Sinha that there was no thumb rule and many non-senior advocates were equally good.
"It is the court which by conferring the designation of Senior to an advocate certify that the person has better ability than the one who is not senior. A senior advocate by virtue of his knowledge and experience occupies a position on a higher footing when compared to non-senior advocate.
"He is likely to put across a case much better than a non-senior. That is, however, not a thumb rule and many non- seniors are also equally good," Venugopal said.
He, however, said that there has to be some eligibility criteria as just because he or she is able to put forward his case in a better way will not suffice.
"There may be successful lawyers, who misled the court or have suppressed relevant facts which should have been disclosed just to be successful in a case.
"Such persons will not be able to uphold the integrity of the profession. Success alone should not be a criteria for designating senior advocate as integrity and conduct have to be considered," he said.
The apex court had in March referred a PIL filed by senior lawyer Indira Jaising seeking transparency and overhauling in the "opaque system" of designating lawyers as senior advocates terming it as discriminatory to a larger three-judge bench.
Jaising said that current procedure is discriminatory in nature and it should be discarded in favour of a more transparent system.
"There should be deemed designation for law officers and retired judges as it is believed that senior advocates get preferential treatment in the court. The new system should consider various aspects, including integrity, pro bono work, expertise in specialised areas of law among other," she said.
The senior lawyer said that in the United States there are no senior or junior tag on lawyers and the practice is prevalent only in Commonwealth nations.
The hearing remained inconclusive and the court posted the matter for August 29.
On January 2, the apex court had decided to hear afresh a plea seeking transparency and overhauling in the "opaque system" of designating lawyers as senior advocates.
The apex court had also tagged with it a petition pending in the Delhi High Court which challenged the provisions of the Advocates Act relating to the designation of lawyers as senior advocates.
It had said that after the verdict in the matter was reserved, some lawyers had approached the apex court to intervene in the case and submitted that all have not been given a proper hearing on the issue.
The petition pending in the high court challenges the constitutional validity of sections 16 and 23 (5) of the Advocates Act, 1961 which provide the statutory basis for designation of lawyers as senior advocates.
The court had noted in its order that after it had reserved the judgement, an application was filed seeking recall of its October 21 last year order on two grounds, including that when the matter was taken up for hearing on that date, the bench did not fully hear submissions on behalf of various lawyers.
The second ground was regarding the petition pending before the high court challenging the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Advocates Act.