Ranchi, July 11: Lawyers and judges at Jharkhand High Court have probably never been so perplexed.
With the state getting its first lady chief justice, they have dropped their legal texts and are pondering over literature on etiquette to find out the apt way of addressing the state’s first lady chief justice, Gyan Sudha Mishra, when she takes oath on Sunday.
The result of their quest will come in handy in more than one case: Jharkhand High Court would soon be getting a lady judge, Jaya Roy.
Referring to the confusion, a judge said they usually addressed fellow judges as “brothers” when sitting together on a division bench. “Now I will have to find out the apt way to address the new chief justice,” said a lawyer.
The lawyers’ dilemma is justified as they have not argued before a lady judge in Jharkhand High Court, which used to function as a bench of Patna High Court before the state was created.
The issue may have been resolved to an extent when the state Bar council chairman made an observation. “Judge is gender neutral. So there should not be any difficulty in addressing her as ‘My Lord’,” said P.C.Tripathy. Former advocate-general Anil Kumar Sinha, too, said judge was a safe form of address.
“’My Lord’ is the appropriate term to address her during arguments,” he said. “Hujoor is also appropriate. These terms are a hangover of the British system.”
Former state Bar council chairman V.P. Pandey, who practices in Patna High Court, agreed that there should not be any problem in addressing the lady chief justice as ‘My Lord’.
“Patna High Court has got three lady judges and they are addressed thus. B.C. Ghosh was the only judge who addressed judges with a ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’,” he said.
In this case, he added, they could simply address the chief justice as “companion judge”.
In Jharkhand, the lawyers are yet to follow the practice of addressing judges as “Sir” or “Madam” or “Your Honour” in pursuance of the Bar Council of India (BCI) notification.
Some time ago, the BCI had asked the lawyers to use “Your Honour” or “Honourable Court” in the Supreme Court and high courts and “Sir” in the subordinate courts to address superiors.
Rajiv Ranjan, a prominent young lawyer, believed the debate had lost its significance. “We used ‘My Lord’ to address the chair. The term has got institutionalised,” he pointed out.
“It could have been a major issue in 1950s soon after the country was unshackled from the clutches of the British. The anti-British sentiments are not very strong now. So, there is no harm in continuing the practice,” he added.