It’s difficult to fathom how citizens are supposed to consult an advocate who is not really in any position to dispense legal advice. Peruse the ‘updated’ list of senior advocates published on the Supreme Court website on 17 December 2012, and you will find quite a few who are no longer alive.
Suspicion begins to arise when you see that the initial names of senior advocates provided by the Supreme Court Registry were designated with that title in the period 1966- 1976. To become a ‘senior’, an advocate must be 45 years of age. Logically speaking, if an advocate was designated ‘senior’ in the 1960s, a number of them should already be over a hundred years old. For instance, former SC judge P Govinda Menon is still listed as a senior advocate, though he retired in 1956. Technically, he is 112 years old now.
Even eminent jurist Vepa P Sarathi is listed on the updated list of available senior counsels. He was designated a ‘senior’ in 1976 and his death in January 2012 was collectively mourned by the legal community. Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice TVR Tatachari, also finds mention in this list even though he passed away in June 2001. A full examination of all 311 in the list is likely to throw up more such names.
The Supreme Court Registry’s system of removing senior advocates from its list depends on intimation received from family members or the concerned bar association. “Often an advocate may simply decide to give up his practice, pack up his belongings and move to his native village. He may not inform the concerned registry or anyone at all, and, therefore, technically continues to hold the designation long after,” says Arvind Rathod, a practising advocate at the Bombay High Court.
Subhash Agarwal, the RTI activist who discovered this error, rightly says that the list should only contain names of those who are currently available for providing legal counsel. “The Registry should correct such grave errors by removing the names of advocates who have passed away,” he says.▪