Published: 24th February 2021
What the FAQ: CJI objects to being addressed as 'Your Honour'. Here's how judges are to be addressed in India
Here we try to explain how judges in India are addressed correctly, how it is different from the United States and more
The Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was rather displeased when he was addressed as 'Your Honour' at court by a law student. "We are not the US Supreme Court. Do not address us this way," he said.
Here's how we should address judges in India.
What did CJI SA Bobde object to?
Ans: A Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Tuesday cautioned a law student against addressing the judges on the Bench as 'Your Honour'. "We are not the US Supreme Court. Do not address us this way," CJI Bobde called out a law student for his mistake. "Apologies. I will address as 'My Lord'", the law student replied. "Whatever, but no incorrect terms," CJI Bobde added. According to reports, the petition was related to the filling up of the vacancies in the subordinate judiciary. This is not the first time that CJI Bobde has taken objection to the term. In August 2020, he schooled a lawyer for addressing him as 'Your Honour'. "Are you appearing before the US Supreme Court? The use of 'Your Honour' is in the US and not in Indian Supreme Court," Bobde asked the lawyer, who then had argued that there is no law that requires advocates to use a particular honorific to address the judges. "It may not be in the law but it is about the practice of the court. We don't use 'Your honour'. Please use the terms that are used in practice in India," CJI Bobde had stated.
How are judges meant to be addressed in India?
Ans: In India, judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts were addressed as 'Your Lordship' or 'My Lord' and 'Your Ladyship' or 'My Lady', a tradition directly attributable to England. The Bar Council of India had adopted a resolution in April 2006 and added a new Rule 49(1)(j) in the Advocates Act. 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. Explaining the rationale behind the move, the Bar Council had held that the 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 but over five years now, the resolution largely remained on paper. However, in an unprecedented move in October 2009, one of the judges of Madras HC, Justice K Chandru had banned lawyers from addressing his court as My Lord and Your Lordship.
How are judges addressed in the United States?
Ans: In many states throughout the United States, a judge is addressed as 'Your Honor' or 'Judge' when presiding over the court. 'Judge' may be more commonly used by attorneys and staff, while either may be commonly used by the plaintiff or defendant. Notably, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the largest unified trial court in the United States, has a rule that the judge shall be addressed only as 'Your Honor' while in court, and never as 'Judge', 'Judge (name)', 'ma'am', or 'sir.'