The Madras High Court in a writ petition for issuance of a writ of Mandamus for the purpose of addressing the equal status or at least 30% of women amongst advocates seeking conferment of Senior Advocate status stated that designating an advocate as a Senior Advocate is a matter of honour and privilege and the same cannot be said to be based on reservation.

The Bench of Justice M. Sundar and Justice N. Sathish Kumar said –

"It is relevant to note that designating an Advocate as a Senior Advocate is a matter of honour and privilege conferred upon a Member of the Bar. This Court is of the view that such privilege and honour cannot be based on reservation. It must be purely based on the merit cum ability and successful career of the Member of the Bar irrespective of the gender of the Member at the Bar."

The Bench further ordered that the lawyers cannot claim any reservation for senior designation based on gender.

Advocate B. Ravi Raja represented the petitioner while Panel Counsel for Madras High Court, M. Santhanaraman appeared for the respondents.

Senior Advocate Chitra Sampath appeared for the intervenor, the Women's Lawyers Association.

In this case, the petitioner, S Lawrence Vimalraj, a lawyer from Madurai District approached the High Court to seek reservation for the women advocates in the conferment of designation of the Senior Advocates from the lists of candidates published vide notifications. It was submitted before the Court by the petitioner that such reservation will ensure greater representation of women lawyers in the Courts.

The High Court in the present matter noted, "After carefully considering the submissions in the light of the case file and other relevant materials, we are of the considered view that the prayer in the captioned writ petition is not entertainable and the same deserves to be negatived for reasons adumbrated in sub paragraphs infra. Submissions made by the intervenor are completely outside the scope of the main writ petition and locus of writ petitioner is completely absent as he is neither a woman nor an applicant. This by itself drops the curtains on the captioned matter."

The Court further observed that in the year 2022, out of a total of 161 candidates, there were only 9 women and 2 of them chose not to go for the interaction with the Permanent Committee therefore, the plea for 50% or at least 1/3rd reservation for women has no legs to stand.

Justice Sathish Kumar in his separate and concurrent opinion said, "It is a privilege based upon the opinion of the Court considering ability, standing at the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law. Thus, it is a subjective decision though based on objective considerations. Such view of the matter, this Court considers it appropriate to hold that such a claim cannot be made as a matter of right."

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the writ petition and connected writ miscellaneous petition.

Cause Title - S. Lawrence Vimalraj v. The Registrar (Judicial) and Ors.

Click here to read/download the Order