Supreme Court Recommends Lawyers to Use ‘Sir’ to Address Judges Instead of ‘My Lords’

The Supreme Court of India has recently taken a unique step in urging lawyers to alter their traditional way of addressing judges during court proceedings. They are advocating for lawyers to discontinue the use of customary phrases like “My Lords” or “Your Lordships” and instead adopt a simpler and more direct term, “Sir.” This unconventional request was made by a bench of justices, including AS Bopanna and PS Narasimha. Their motivation for making this request became evident when a lawyer repeatedly used the older honorifics during a court session.

Justice Narasimha, in a surprising move, went even further by offering the lawyer an intriguing proposition. He stated that he would personally give the lawyer half of his own salary if they agreed to make the switch to using “Sir” in place of “My Lords.” He playfully remarked, “How many times will you say ‘My Lords’? If you stop saying this, then I will give you half of my salary. Why don’t you use ‘Sir’ instead?” This offered a unique and somewhat humorous dimension to the situation.

This initiative is not entirely novel, as it resonates with a resolution that the Bar Council of India (BCI) passed in 2006. The BCI had called upon lawyers to refrain from using “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” when addressing judges. The BCI’s guidelines prescribed that lawyers should demonstrate respect for the court and its dignity. In the Supreme Court and High Courts, they should use “Your Honour” or “Hon’ble Court.” In Subordinate Courts and Tribunals, lawyers have the option to address the court as “Sir” or use equivalent terms in their regional languages.

This call for modernizing language and etiquette in the courtroom has not been limited to the Supreme Court alone. Judges in various high courts across India have extended similar advice to lawyers. For instance, the Orissa High Court, under the leadership of then Chief Justice S Muralidhar, advised that advocates and parties-in-person appearing before the court avoid “My Lord,” “Your Lordship,” “Your Honour,” and the prefix “Hon’ble.” In the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi requested lawyers not to use “Your Lordship” and recommended avoiding certain terms, such as “obliged” and “grateful,” during case arguments. Justice Devan Ramachandran of the Kerala High Court indicated a preference for being addressed as “Sir.”

This shift in addressing judges reflects a broader movement to simplify language and formalities in the courtroom. It underscores a commitment to promoting a more straightforward and respectful approach within the Indian legal system. By moving away from traditional colonial-era phrases and embracing more direct and contemporary language, the legal community in India is signaling its readiness to modernize court etiquette.

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