Updated: July 16, 2019 8:54:58 am
The debate around court etiquette in India took a new turn on Monday as a Full Court of the Rajasthan High Court resolved to censure the salutations “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” from courtroom protocol – a practice that has been inherited from British rule.
The Rajasthan High Court order in the notification on 15th July said: “To honour the mandate of equality enshrined in the Constitution of India, the Full Court in its meeting dated 14.07.2019 has unanimously resolved to request the counsels and those who appear before the Court to desist from addressing the Hon’ble Judges as ‘My Lord’ and ‘Your Lordship’.”
The expression “Your Honour”, however, remains unaffected by the order.
Efforts to end the colonial relic
The Advocates Act of 1961, under section 49(1)(c), empowers the Bar Council of India to make rules on professional and etiquette standards to be observed by advocates.
To address this issue, a Resolution by the Bar Council of India in 2006 added Chapter IIIA to Part VI of the BCI Rules. The provision and its explanation read as follows:
“CHAPTER-IIIA3: To address the Court
Consistent with the obligation of the Bar to show a respectful attitude towards the Court and bearing in mind the dignity of Judicial Office, the form of address to be adopted whether in the Supreme Court, High Courts or Subordinate Courts should be as follows: “Your Honour” or “Hon’ble Court” in Supreme Court & High Courts and in the Subordinate Courts and Tribunals it is open to the Lawyers to address the Court as “Sir” or the equivalent word in respective regional languages.”
As the words “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” are relics of a Colonial past, it is proposed to incorporate the above rule showing respectful attitude to the Court.
In 2014, a senior advocate filed a PIL with the Supreme Court asking that the archaic expressions be banned. Judges HL Dattu and SA Bobde rejected the petition but said that the terms “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” had never been compulsory, and observed that they were relics of a colonial era. Calling it a “negative prayer”, the bench remarked, “We only say call us respectfully”.
Custom in the UK
The official website of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary in the UK states that judges of the Court of Appeals and the High Court are to be addressed in court as “My Lord” or “My Lady”, Circuit judges as “Your Honour”, Magistrates as “Your Worship”, or “Sir” or “Madam”, and District judges and Tribunal judges as “Sir” or “Madam”.
In the US and the Commonwealth
On the US Supreme Court website, a document titled ‘Guide for Counsel in Cases to be argued before the Supreme Court of The United States’ states:
“Under the present practice, “Mr.” is only used in addressing the Chief Justice. Others are referred to as “Justice Scalia,” “Justice Ginsburg,” or “Your Honor.” Do not use the title “Judge.” If you are in doubt about the name of a Justice who is addressing you, it is better to use “Your Honor” rather than mistakenly address the Justice by another Justice’s name.”
The Singapore Supreme Court website also says that the Judge/Registrar can be addressed as “Your Honour”.
In Australia as well, in the High Court and the Federal Court, the judges are to be addressed as “Your Honour”.
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