Support for Local Languages by the CJI is Welcome but Disapproval to Address as ‘Your Honour’ is Inexplicable

In the week just gone by, Chief Justice of India made two observations during hearings of the two unrelated cases. One of them deserves unqualified praise from all section of the society, which underscores the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI), he has said that that hearings of the Courts can be conducted in any language because the technology for the translations from one language to the other is now available. It will, indubitably, break the hegemony of the English (which was once considered to be the language of barbarians). The emphasis on the use of English in India has led to the stunted growth of mental faculties of the people including that of the lawyering. A very minuscule number of advocates and judges have mastered English but for the majority, it is still ‘will-o- wisp’. However, this will need the Constitutional amendment by the Parliament of India.
Justice Bobde’s second observation relates to the addressing of the court by the lawyers. He frowned on an advocate, who addressed the bench headed by him as ‘Your Honour’. His displeasure was not only inexplicable but also unacceptable. Addressing the court as ‘My Lord(s) is a despicable colonial mindset. It smacks of the sycophancy and slavery. It sounds demeaning and depicts the fawning mentality of the advocates. Even the Bar Council Rules are very clear in this regard.
Let me quote Rule under section 49(1)(j) of the Advocates Act, 1961) that says: ‘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 the Supreme Court and 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 past, it is proposed to incorporate the above rule showing respectful attitude to the Court.
In this context, reference must be made of the Justice Muralidhar, presently the judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who as the judge of the Delhi High Court had made it clear that no lawyer would address him as ‘ My Lord’. The note for not addressing him as ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship’ used to be given with the cause list and he has continued to maintain this practice in the P& H High Court also. It is a matter of huge satisfaction for one and all, not only the lawyers, that another Justice TBN Radhakrishnan of the Calcutta High Court has directed the Registrar General to get it notified that he should not be addressed as ‘ My Lord’.
Only a year back the full bench of the Rajasthan High Court passed the path-breaking resolution and asked all the lawyers and litigants to do away the practice of addressing the judges as ‘My Lord ‘or ‘Your Lordship’. The full bench meeting was presided over by Justice Ravindra Bhatt, who is now the judge of the Supreme Court. Earlier he was with Delhi High Court. The High Court Registrar issued a notification and requested to the lawyers and litigants to address the judges them simply as ‘Sir’ or ‘Srimanji’.
Incidentally, some six years the bench presided over HL Datu (who later became the Chief Justice), which included the present Chief Justice SA Bobde also had said that ‘Judges should be addressed in courts in a respectful and dignified manner and it is not compulsory to call them ‘my lord’, ‘your lordship’ . We only want to be addressed respectfully. 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 ways of expression which is accepted’. This obiter dicta observation was made while hearing the PIL filed by 75-year-old advocate Shiv Sagar Tiwari. The bench had said ‘Don’t address us as ‘Lordship’. We don’t say anything. We only say that address us respectfully. It is for you to say ‘Sir’, ‘Your Lordship’ or ‘Your Honour’. We can’t direct as to how you have to address the court.’ Shri Tiwari had sought the apex court’s direction to strictly prohibit the use of ‘my lord’ and ‘your lordship’ in courts alleging that ‘it is against the dignity of the country. Using the words ‘My Lord’ and ‘Your Lordship’ are symbols of slavery and they should be strictly prohibited to be used in the courts throughout India.
That is why the sudden outburst of the CJI Bobde for addressing the bench as ‘Your Honour’ is not understandable. Therefore, it will be in the fitness of the occasion that Justice Bobde immediately clarify that he was against the judges to be addressed as ‘My Lords’ and the earlier this practice is abandoned, the better.