Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan (L)
Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan (L)

Address me as "Sir", not "My Lord" or "Lordship", urges Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan

A communication to this effect was sent on behalf of the Chief Justice by the Registrar General of the Calcutta High Court on July 14.

Meera Emmanuel

Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan of the Calcutta High Court is the latest to join a gradually rising chorus to urge against being addressed as "My Lord" or "Lordship" while being addressed in his capacity as a Judge.

In a communication addressed on his behalf by the Registrar General of the Calcutta High Court on July 14, the Chief Justice has urged all officers of the District Judiciary, including members of the Registry, to address the Chief Justice only as “Sir” instead of “My Lord” or “Lordship” in conformity with the applicable judicial and administrative precedents.

On July 15, last year, the Full Court of the Rajasthan High Court had passed a resolution on similar lines to do away with the colonial-era practice of referring to judges as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship."

A similar observation was made by the Supreme Court as well back in 2014. A PIL moved by an advocate, Shiv Sagar Tiwari to do away with the practice of addressing judges as “Your Lordship” and “My Lord”, had prompted a Bench of Justices HL Dattu and SA Bobde (now the Chief Justice of India) to point out that it was not compulsory to address the Court as “My Lord”, “Your Lordship” or even “Your Honour.”

While dismissing the PIL, the Bench had said,

When did we say it is compulsory? You can only call us in a dignified manner…. How can this negative prayer be accepted by us? Don’t address us as “lordship”. We don’t say anything. We only say address us respectfully.”

The topic briefly propped up during court proceedings in the Madras High Court in 2018 as well. While cautioning a litigant – who had appeared in person to argue his case – to address the Court respectfully, a Madras High Court judge orally observed,

You need not address us as ‘Your Lordships’ either, it is part of the colonial mindset, we also don’t like it. Just address us as ‘the Court'.”

Another High Court judge who has been urging arguing counsel against the use of "My Lord" or "Your Lordship" while addressing him in Court is Justice S Muralidhar, who presently sits in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. A note stating as follows is generally found on top of the causelist before the Judge:

"It is for the information of respected members of the Bar that Hon’ble Dr. Justice S Muralidhar has requested that they may try to avoid addressing him as “Your Lordship” or “My Lord”. All concerned to note please."

Justice Muralidhar has been requesting that he not be referred by such epithets even during his days as a Delhi High Court judge.

In 2017, a courtroom exchange before the Punjab and Haryana High Court also veered off to a brief discussion on whether the usage of "Your Ladyship" is discriminatory.

It may be noted that the current Bar Council of India (BCI) rules also do not mandate the use of “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” when it comes to addressing the members of the Bench. In this regard, Chapter III A of Part VI of the BCI Rules lays down the following when it comes to the manner in which the Court must be addressed:

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.”

Notably, an explanation to this provision specifically refers to the usage of “Lord” and “Lordship” as relics of the colonial pasts. It states,

“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.”

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