Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yes … My Lord

The Bar Council of India, the apex body of the lawyers in the country, adopted a resolution in April 2006 and added a new Rule 49(1) (j) in the Advocates Act. As per the rule, Judges need not be addressed as ‘Lords’ and lawyers can address the court as 'Your Honour' and refer to it as 'Honourable Court'. If it is a subordinate court, lawyers can use terms such as 'Sir' or any equivalent phrase in the regional language concerned. The resolution has since been circulated to all state councils and the Supreme Court for adoption, but over five years now, the resolution largely remains on paper.

In response, the Kerala High Court Advocates Association in 2007 passed a resolution that judges of the Kerala High Court need not be addressed as ‘Lordships’; instead can be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ or ‘Sir’ . Recently, the Advocates Association of the Punjab and Haryana High Court also passed a resolution on similar lines. Newspaper reports suggest that Judges have been receptive to these changes. But unfortunately in practice, Judges are still addressed as Lordships in High Courts and the Supreme Court. However, in an unprecedented move in October 2009, Justice K Chandru of Madras HC banned lawyers from addressing his court as 'My lord' and 'Your lor


The term ‘Lord’ denotes feudal superiority or a divine entity, and the Bar Council resolution refers to such terms as ‘relics of the colonial past’. In England and Wales (and much of the Commonwealth) judges of the higher courts are addressed as ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady’ and referred to as ‘Your Lordship’ or ‘Your Ladyship’. Judges of the lower court are addressed as ‘Your Honour’ and all lower judges, magistrates, and chairs of tribunals are addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Magistrates are still addressed as ‘Your Worship’ in South Africa. In the House of Lords, judges are called Law Lords.

To Ponder:

Do we actually need to follow such practices, when the basic philosophy of the constitution (Art.18) itself takes a view that titles are to be abolished?

In a wider perspective, judges of the yesteryears were mostly men of dignity and learning who commanded respect. But do the new generation judges deserve such respect?

Lawyers of the Kerala High Court are still reluctant in using ‘Sir’ in the High Court. Many believe that they are not addressing the Judge as a person, but his position as a presiding officer of a Constitutional Court. Is this stand valid?

Many argue that such usages bring an element of formality into the judicial process thereby ensuring respect for the system. Is this stand justified?

On a lighter note,

Isn’t the term ‘Sir’ also British?

In courts, we also come across lawyers who don’t believe in the concept of Lord (athiest) and others who believe that there is only one Lord (Christians).

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