Friday, October 16, 2009

‘My Lord’ barred from court by HC judge

Chennai: It is more than three years since the move to do away with a colonial practice in the judiciary was thought of, but the first step towards its actual implementation came from a Madras High Court judge. Justice K Chandru on Thursday banned the use of the terms ‘My lord’ and ‘Your lordship’ by lawyers addressing his court.

A dvocates whose cases were listed for hearing before Justice Chandru were in for a surprise on Thursday when they saw a message on a notice board requesting them not to address the court using the traditional phrase ‘My Lord’. Quoting a Bar Council of India resolution adopted in April 2006, the judge requested lawyers to adhere to Rule 49(1)(j) of the Advocates Act as framed by the Bar Council.
As per the rule, lawyers can address the court as ‘Your Honour’ and refer to it as ‘Honourable Court’. If it is a subordinate court, lawyers can use terms such as ‘Sir’ or any equivalent phrase in the regional language concerned.
In April 2006, explaining the rationale behind the move, the Bar Council said words such as ‘My Lord’ and ‘Your Lordship’ were “relics of the colonial past”. The resolution has since been circulated to all state councils and the Supreme Court for adoption. For over three years now, the resolution largely remained on paper. The ‘My Lord’ issue is not new to the Madras High Court. The late KV Sankaran, who was president of the advocates’ association several years ago, never addressed the court as ‘My Lord’. Later, when some activists broached the topic, senior advocate and doyen of the Madras Bar, Govind Swaminathan is said to have quipped: “It is a good move. But I cannot stop calling my wife ‘darling’. Let young members follow the practice.”
While heading to the court hall or meetings, a judge of the Madras HC enjoys two unique privileges - a ‘dafedar’ bearing a silver mace and a loud hissing sound he lets out in the corridors to forewarn people that the judge is coming. “This is a luxury not available to any judge of the Supreme Court or judges of the 20 other High Courts in the country,” a senior jurist said.
Every Madras HC judge is given a mace-bearer, driver and a personal security officer. Together, there are about 180 people doing these jobs. Except when the judge travels to his home or court or when he heads to court halls or meetings, these staffers have no work to do. “If they are redesignated as driver-cumhelper or mace-bearer-cumhelper, they can be engaged in more productive office work when they are not attending on the judges,” said a jurist.

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