Nedumpara’s letter to President, Kerala High Court Bar Association: An appeal for abolition of pernicious system of Designation of lawyers


4th January, 2019


Sri Ramkumar,
Senior Advocate.

Copy to:

President and Members of the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association.

Respected Sir,

Sub: Designation of lawyers – insult to the members of the Association.

I happened to come across the letter which you have addressed to the President and Members of the Executive Committee of the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association at 6.43 a.m. today on its being forwarded to me by a very close friend of mine, a fellow sexagenarian. The word ‘insult’ in the caption of your letter captured my thought. By 9 O’clock, I received a call from a good old friend, who had applied for designation as a Senior Advocate along with almost 30 other lawyers, among whom are sexagenarians and septuagenarians in the Bar for 30 to 35 years, who had to suffer the ‘insult’ of their applications being rejected by the Full Court of the Kerala High Court consisting of Judges who are juniors at the Bar. Being deeply pained at the anguish of my friend, whose name I withhold, I called yet another friend of mine, who is a few years senior to me. For considerations of propriety, I withhold his name too. He was crestfallen; the sense of pain, insult and humiliation which he felt and which he conveyed to me, literally weeping, no words can explain.

     Sir, in your letter you have dealt with “canvassing, lobbying and favouritism; some of our retired Judges forming a coterie and engaging themselves in spiritual confabulation and hectic but objectionable activities to secure designation of some of their candidates”.  I have no doubt that every word employed in your letter is true and I feel a great sense of pain and anguish which made you pen the letter.  I am in full agreement with you, Sir, with almost all that you have written when it comes to the anguish, humiliation and pain of my esteemed members of the Bar who had applied for designation but rejected.

     However, Sir, I am afraid to say that your letter fails to address the core issue.  Why at all we should have a system of designation of lawyers?  What useful purpose it serves, except division of the Bar and a sense of insult, which those who have applied and failed are made to suffer faced with a situation where lawyers who are far junior to them and most of them the kith and kin of Judges and senior lawyers are designated in their 40s; what useful purpose does such a system offer than to provide for a monopoly for the elite few to capture the legal profession, which is an industry today?  What is the justification for continuing the system which divides the Bar into two, the elite class and the underdogs, and allowing the majority 95% of the legal fraternity being subjected to discriminatory and unfair treatment?  Has not the system of designation; so too the collegium system of appointment of Judges made the legal fraternity literally a spineless lot?  An ambitious young lawyer as he attains 40 years allows himself to be a sycophant, an invertebrate, in the hope to become a Judge.  If he is not selected as a Judge, then also he can never ever afford to think of displeasing the Bench even where he is under a duty to be fearless, for, that will mean displeasing the Judges in whom even designation to the elite class of lawyers is vested.

     Sir, you yourselves are a victim of the system where Judges designate lawyers.  While many unknown and far less deserving faces have been designated as Senior Advocates, you were denied the said position because you are a fearless lawyer and that has meant many of the Benches being displeased. Sir, you are a doyen of the Bar; you do not need the gown of the Senior Advocate for recognition, acceptance and command among the litigant public and members of the Bar and even among the Benches.  You must walk the talk, practice what you preach; you must give up your designation as a Senior Advocate and lead us in our campaign for a fair, non-discriminatory and transparent justice delivery system.  We requested Ms. Indira Jaising to do so; she refused to practice what she preaches.  But there is a saving grace.  She gave up the gown of Senior Advocate and today wears the robe which any other lawyer wears.

     Sir, we hold you in high esteem and thank you for your letter.  I am sure, you will extend your support in our relentless war against discrimination, for transparency and justice.

With respectful regards,

Yours sincerely,

Mathews J Nedumpara