SC should rethink criteria for 'senior advocate' title

Kathmandu, October 28

Lawyers say the Supreme Court should rethink the criteria for awarding the title of senior advocate to lawyers.

Advocate Jagadish Dahal said the criteria for awarding senior advocate title should be changed to ensure that only practising lawyers qualify.

“The Supreme Court should not award the title of senior advocate to retired government officials who hold the lawyers’ licence, but have served in government offices or those license holders who have worked as university teachers or at NGOs and INGOs,” he said, adding that the title of senior advocate should be awarded to practising lawyers alone.

*Conferring the title of senior advocate to practising lawyers is a worldwide practice and Nepal should also follow it. Dahal also said that the membership of a lawyer should be revoked if he/she discontinues practice.

Dahal said the full court of the SC should ensure that only deserving candidate who have devoted their life to the protection of people’s rights should be awarded the senior advocate’s title.

Advocate Madhav Kumar Basnet said the dignity of the title of senior advocate was diminishing as the title was being conferred on lawyers on the basis of the seniority of their license numbers. “The practice of awarding the title on the basis of seniority of licence should end.

The Supreme Court should award this title to very few but deserving people because all the people who have been awarded the title have not been able to live up to expectations,” Basnet said.

General Secretary of Nepal Bar Association Khamma Bahadur Khati said the lawyers’ umbrella organisation met Chief Justice Sushila Karki recently and told her to review the criteria so as to ensure that the title of senior advocate is awarded to the most deserving professional.

“There are cases where lawyers who have practised law for as long as 30 years are not awarded the title and other junior professionals are awarded,” he said. Khati said the CJ assured the NBA that she would look into it and try to address their concerns.

Section 21 of Nepal Bar Council Act, 1993 stipulates: Title of Senior Advocate: (1) If the Supreme Court finds that an advocate has helped the courts and society as a legal practitioner in the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal for at least fifteen years, it may confer the title of senior advocate to such a legal practitioner as an honour and such a senior advocate shall have to maintain good conduct as prescribed. (2) The Supreme Court shall take consent of the advocate while conferring him/her the title of senior advocate.

A former office bearer of NBA, who preferred anonymity, however, said that conferring the title of senior advocate on lawyers was the Supreme Court’ discretionary power and lawyers could not claim the title as their right.

“There are often grudges that deserving candidates were not considered for the title of senior advocate, but when you look at the legal provision, the lawyers have no right to hold grudge against the full court’s decision,” he added.

There are more than 16,000 lawyers in Nepal and the number of senior advocates is around 180.