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'Not US Supreme Court Or Magistrate' : SC Takes Objection To Petitioner Addressing Judges 'Your Honour'

23 Feb 2021 7:00 AM GMT
Sexual Allegation

A Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of India on Monday took objection to a law student, who was appearing as a party-in-person, when he addressed the judges 'Your Honour'.

"When you call us Your Honour, you either have the Supreme Court of United States or the Magistrate in mind. We are neither', CJI SA Bobde told the petitioner.

The petitioner was quick to apologize and said that he will use "My Lords".

"Whatever. We are not particular what you call us. But don't use incorrect terms", the CJI replied.

The petition was related to the filling up of the vacancies in the subordinate judiciary.

Justice V Ramasubramanian, who was also part of the bench, told the petitioner that he has not done his "homework properly" as he had missed out the directions in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case. Justice Ramasubramanian pointed out that the appointments in subordinate judiciary are done as per the time-frame set in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case.

When the petitioner was seemingly fumbling with his response, the CJI advised him "In such a situation, you must seek time to study the case".

"'Study the case and comeback next week", the CJI added.

Accordingly, the bench comprising CJI Bobde, Justices V Ramasubramanian and AS Bopanna adjourned the case by a week.

A similar exchange had happened in the CJI's court in August 2020 when a lawyer used 'Your Honour'.

My Lord Or Your Honour?': How To Address Judges In India?

On 6 January 2014, the Supreme Court bench comprising the then CJI Justices HL Dattu and SA Bobde
heard and dismissed a PIL
filed by a lawyer, Advocate Shiv Sagar Tiwari who sought a ban on using the words 'my lord' and 'your lordship'. He contended that these terms are symbols of slavery should be strictly prohibited to be used in the courts throughout India as it is against the dignity of the country."
""When did we say it is compulsory. You can only call us in a dignified manner...To address the court what do we want. Only a respectable way of addressing. You call (judges) sir, it is accepted. You call it your honour, it is accepted. You call lordship it is accepted. These are some of the appropriate way of expression which are accepted
,", the bench reportedly told the lawyer while it dismissed the PIL without stating any reasons.

Requests By Individual Judges Not To Use 'My Lord' And 'Your Lordship'

Justice K. Chandru of Madras High Court had in 2009 asked the lawyers to refrain from using 'My Lord'. Earlier this year, Justice S Muralidhar had formally requested the lawyers that they may try and avoid addressing him as 'your lordship' or 'my lord',". The Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, Thottathil B. Nair Radhakrishnan had recently addressed a letter to the officers of district judiciary including members of Registry, expressing his desire to be addressed as "Sir" instead of "My Lord" or "Lordship".

Last year, Rajasthan High Court issued a notice requesting lawyers and those appearing before the judges to desist from addressing the Hon'ble Judges as "My Lord" and "Your Lordship". The notice was issued following a unanimous resolution taken by the Full Court in a meeting held on 14th July. Such move was taken "to honor the mandate of equality enshrined in the Constitution of India".

'Your Lordship', 'My Lord' Colonial Relic; Lawyers may even use 'Sir' to address judges - BCI Resolution of 2006

On 6 May 2006, the Bar Council of India published its resolution in the Gazette of India which read as follows:

"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.

Explanation: As the words "My Lord" and "Your Lordship" are relics of Colonial post, it is proposed to incorporate the above rule showing respectful attitude to the Court".

Thus the Rule [Part VI, Chapter IIIA of Bar Council of India Rules] prescribe the use of "Your Honour" or "Hon'ble Court" in Supreme Court & High Courts and "Sir" or equivalent words in the Subordinate Courts and Tribunals. The explanation further states that the words "My Lord" and "Your Lordship" are relics of Colonial post.

It is evident from the above Rule that the Bar Council of India has disapproved the use of "My Lord" and "Your Lordship" and has prescribed the use of "Your Honour" or "Hon'ble Court" or "Sir" to address judges.

Interestingly, this resolution was taken by Bar Council after considering the observations made by the Supreme Court while hearing a PIL filed by Progressive & Vigilant Lawyers Forum. However, the judgment/order dismissing this PIL on 6 January 2006 could not be accessed. Reportedly, the Court had dismissed the PIL observing that it was a matter to be decided by the BCI as how the Judges should be addressed.

Following this, in 2007, the Kerala High Court Advocates' Association had unanimously resolved to stop addressing judges as 'My Lord' or 'Your Lordship'.

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