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Monday, October 25, 2021

Judges ready to march with time; lawyers pull back,blame habit

Every day,two young judges of the Delhi High Court remind lawyers of a pledge they took almost three years ago — never to address them as “My Lords” or “Your Lordship” again.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi |
March 17, 2009 12:56:09 am

Every day,two young judges of the Delhi High Court remind lawyers of a pledge they took almost three years ago — never to address them as “My Lords” or “Your Lordship” again.

While Justice S Ravindra Bhatt recently stopped his reminders to lawyers even as they continue “out of habit”,his colleague in court,Justice (Dr) S Muralidhar,started off his campaign on Monday in his signature “no-fuss” style.

Justice Muralidhar discourages his court bearer from waiting on him and does not allow him to push back his chair or open the courtroom door to his inner chambers.

“Advocates are requested to try and avoid addressing the judge as my lord and your lordship,” says the note issued today from the court of Justice Muralidhar,a PhD from Delhi University in 2003. This is strategically positioned at the head of the list of cases scheduled for the day,and immediately below the judge’s name.

Senior officials from the judge’s court however vouch that Justice Muralidhar had started his campaign a year ago when he was hearing criminal cases. Justice Bhatt,had till recently,encouraged lawyers to limit their address to “Your Honour” or “Sir”.

The judges’ initiative is despite a Full House Resolution of the Bar Council of India,the country’s controlling body for lawyers,on May 6,2006 that a “respectful attitude” to a court does not include indulging in the “relics of the country’s Colonial past”.

The pledge was published in the Official Gazette that year and sent to all state bar councils,associations,Registrars of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

Bar Council of India’s Chairperson S N P Sinha,speaking to Newsline on phone from Patna,says the usage is a “slip between the cup and the lip” for most lawyers. “This centuries-old habit,a British legacy,cannot be overcome in a day. The Council keeps reminding lawyers every now and then. But the terms escape from their mouths,they are helpless too in a way,” Sinha says.

But Sinha is “happy” that somebody is reminding lawyers.

“These judges are right. Theirs is a good initiative,in the right spirit. The breach is on our (lawyers’) side,” he admits.

Interestingly,the Delhi High Court website in a chapter called “Duty to Courts” merely demands that lawyers conduct themselves with dignity and self-respect. It further tells lawyers to “not be servile” and come out with their grievances “whenever there is proper ground for serious complaint against a judicial officer”.

Lawyer Sanjeev Bhatnagar had first sparked off the debate in 2006 before the Supreme Court with his petition that “it is not desirable or essential to continue with the obsolete customary practice,which smacks of slavery in independent India.”

The two-judge Bench of the SC had dismissed the petition,reasoning it was not their job to decide how lawyers should address the “dispensers of justice”. The BCI then responded with the May 6 Resolution.

“May be in course of time we will change,” says BCI Secretary S Radhakrishnan.

The resolution says
“Consistent with the obligation of lawyers to show a respectful attitude towards the Court and bearing in mind the dignity of the judicial office,the form of address to be adopted in the Supreme Court,High Courts and subordinate courts are ‘Your Honour or Honourable Court… and sir’ or an equivalent word in respective regional languages.”

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