‘Your Honour’ suitable for US, magistrate courts, says CJI
Judges of the Supreme Court are not to be addressed as “Your Honour” because such a salutation befits judges of the Supreme Court of the United States or the Magistrate courts in India, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde said on Tuesday.
Later in the day, Bar Council of India (BCI), the apex body of lawyers in the country, put out a press release clarifying that as per a September 28, 2019 resolution issued by it, “as per mostly preferred and prevalent practice” lawyers of the country be requested to address judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as “My Lord” or “Your Lordship” while lawyers of the subordinate courts, tribunals and other forums may address the court as “Your Honour” or “Sir” or the equivalent word in respective regional languages.
CJI Bobde, heading a three-judge bench, was hearing a petition filed by law student Shrikant Prasad. The petition sought filling up of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary, in particular at courts handling criminal cases.
As he addressed the bench as “Your Honour”, the CJI said, “You either have the US Supreme Court or the Magistrate court here in your mind when you call us ‘Your Honour’. We do not want you to address us as Your Honour.”
Earlier, in August 2020, CJI Bobde expressed similar reservation to a petitioner on being addressed as “Your Honour”.
BCI rules, which regulate uniform standards of etiquette to be followed by lawyers across the country, in 2006 amended the law, making it binding on lawyers to address judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court as “Your Honour” or “Your Lordship”.
The September 2019 BCI resolution seeks to override the Gazette notification and revives the commonly adopted practice followed among lawyers of addressing judges as “My Lords” or “Your Lordship”. Interestingly, the 2006 amendment termed the words “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” as “relics of British colonial past”.
The press release issued by BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said, “The said resolution was taken by the Council in order to maintain graciousness and to uphold the majesty (i.e. impressive beauty) of the Courts.”
Lawyer bodies of Kerala high court and Punjab & Haryana high court have issued resolutions in line with the BCI amendment shedding the practice of using “My Lord” and “Your Lordship”.
On one hand, while the rules permit the use of “Your Honour”, the preference shown by the CJI in being addressed by anything other than “Your Honour” has put lawyers in a fix. In 2014, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by a lawyer Shiv Sagar Tiwari seeking a uniform standard to be adopted across all courts in the country for addressing judges of the higher courts and subordinate judiciary.
Citing the 2006 BCI Rules, Tiwari demanded that the practice of addressing Supreme Court and HC judges as “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” must end.
The top court refused to pass any order. Leaving this choice to the lawyers instead, the bench added a caveat that any form of addressing the judges should be dignified and respectful.
Senior advocate Gopal Shankaranaraynan said: “We have grown up seeing generations of lawyers addressing Supreme Court and high court judges as My Lords... There are senior advocates in the Supreme Court who address judges as ‘Sir’, judges do not mind.”
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