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Your Lordship? Your decision, Sir

Respect opinion

New Delhi, Jan. 6: The Supreme Court today declined to entertain a petition seeking to end the practice of addressing judges as “my lord”, “lordship” and “your honour”, saying it was for the Bar Council of India (BCI) to decide the matter.

“What we want is a respectable way of address —“sir”, “my lord”, “your lordship” or in some other manner. Counsel like Naphade (Shekar) address us as “sir”. We don’t have any objection. It is your lookout to address us respectfully,” the court said, dismissing the PIL filed by an advocate, Shiv Sagar Tiwari.

The bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and S.A. Bobde said any order to end the practice must come from the bar council, which regulates the working of advocates in the country.

“We can’t pass any direction. If you want, you can approach the BCI and seek a mandate that judges should be addressed as ‘sir’. But we don’t want to pass any direction in this regard,” Justice Dattu said.

The advocate had filed the PIL seeking an end to the colonial system of addressing judges as “my lord” on the ground that it amounted to slavery and treating judges on a par with God.

“That the word ‘Lordship’ or ‘Your Lordship’ being used in courts in India is nothing but a sign of slavery because except Ram and Krishna nobody on the earth is My Lord, what to say of the judicial officials in the Indian courts and the Hon’ble judges in the high courts and Supreme Court to be the Lords or My Lords,” Tiwari said in his petition.

He said that a year ago he had addressed a judge in the Supreme Court as “sir” and was reprimanded for not using “my lord” or “lordship”.

He claimed that because of his refusal to address the judge by the “exalted” term, he did not get relief in a civil case in which he had appeared.

Tiwari, in his petition, said the BCI had passed a resolution in April 2006 that no advocate would address a judge as “my lord” or “lordship” and a gazette notification had been issued on May 6, 2006. Yet, advocates continued to address judges by those terms instead of using sir/madam.

He had sent a request to the Supreme Court Bar Association on August 6, 2013, to convene a general body meeting to discuss the issue but no action had been taken, he said.

The petitioner also made a representation to the Chief Justice of India on August 15, 2013, but got no response. So, he was forced to file the petition in the apex court, he said.