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#Apprentice Addressing Judges as “Your Lordship”

Bar & Bench

In this edition of The Apprentice, IDIA scholar Namrata Dubey writes on why the practice of addressing judges as “Your Lordship” needs to be done away with. 

Long ago in the Western world, a ‘Divine Right Theory’ emerged, according to which the King was ‘The Messenger’ or ‘The Son’ of God and whatever he did was always right. These Kings asked their subjects to refer to them as ‘Your Lordship’, in other words, the King was the God of his subjects.

Whenever the King delegated work to any individual he was to be referred in the same manner and since the whole aristocracy was referred to in the same manner it was only the slaves, only the serfs who had to bear this burden. The term “King” denotes authority whereas the term Lord denotes a possession, and since no free human being can be in someone’s possession, these subjects were indeed slaves.

The Britishers had the same motive when they brought these terminologies to India. They wanted to make the Indians, subjects or should I say slaves of the Crown. Even though the Britishers left India more than a century ago, the usage of terms like ‘Your Lordship’’ or ‘My Ladyship’ still exists.

More importantly it exists in our judiciary which bears the responsibility of creating a more equal society. Simple submissions do not work in Indian Courts, they are supposed to be ‘Humble Submissions’. According to judges like H. L. Dattu and and S. A. Bobde, addressing judges as, “my lord” or “your lordship” is a relic of colonial era and a sign of slavery.

Furthermore, Sec. 49 (i) (j) of Advocates Act 1961, Bar Council Rules say that, it is not mandatory for lawyers to refer to their judges as ‘Your Lordship’. One can understand the aim may be to respect the hard work put in by the judges, but this respect should not come at the cost of others dignity. These terms can be substituted with words like ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.

The question that arises is what could be done in order to stop this? To end this practice, a commitment is required from the whole legal fraternity be it practicing lawyers, judges or law schools. Practicing lawyers will have to understand the side effects of these terms and stop using them when they appear in front of the court. Judges will have to understand that as Art. 14 of Indian Constitution says every individual should be given ‘equal treatment before the law’, the term “every individual” also includes lawyers.

Law schools have a greater responsibility, where they will have to train their students in such a way that they treat every individual with respect. In order to stop this practice, colleges should do away with the tradition of referring to Judges of Moot Court and Mock Trial Competitions as ‘Your Lordship’ this step would uproot the practice from its very root. India has been in the bondages of slavery for more than two centuries, perhaps it is time to do away with these outdated practices.

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