No Disrespect is Intended to ‘Your Honour’
On 23rd February, two incidents have happened in two different courts of Delhi. One relates to the Supreme Court of India and the other one has come from the court of an Additional Sessions Judge. In the first case, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India has asked a law student not to address the judges of the higher judiciary as ‘Your Honour’. This has left the community of lawyers in a quandary because the Bar Council of India, an Apex Body of the lawyers amended the rules many years back that the judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court should be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ not as ‘Your Lordship’ and ‘My Lord’ because it is a British legacy.
It is really very perplexing as to how ‘Your Honour’ could be demeaning or disrespecting, merely because this is how the judges of the US Supreme Court are addressed.? It shows that we are still warped in the time zone of British slavery. In the US Supreme Courts (there are many Supreme Courts in the US) the same respects are accorded to judges and the majesty of law as it is in other democratic countries including India. The way of addressing the courts should be respectful without showing even a trace of servility. The term ‘Your Honour’ is certainly highly respected and is free from the vestiges of servility. Then why has Justice Bobde, who is immensely decent and courteous to the lawyers, felt that ‘Your Honour’ is not the proper way of addressing the judges of the higher Judiciary in India?
It is mentionable here that Justice S.Muralidhar, who is now the Chief Justice of Odisha High Court, as the judge of the Delhi High Court had the specific instructions that he should be addressed as ‘Sir’ and not as ‘My Lord’. For which he earned the laurels of the advocates. The Bar Council of India should now again take the call and settle this matter once for all that judges of all courts, irrespective of lower or higher courts, should be addressed in a respectful manner as ‘Sir/Madam’ or ‘Your Honour’ and the term ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship’ should be dispensed with for always.
The second case relates to granting of bail to a young woman activist by an Additional Sessions Judge of the Delhi court. The wise words of the late Justice Krishna Iyer that Bail is the norm and Jail is an exception has now become a cliché mantra. The primary objective of the bail is not to detain and arrest an accused person but to ensure his/her appearance at the time of trial and to make sure if the accused is held guilty, he/she is available to suffer the consequence of the offence.
Every citizen of India has a fundamental right to freedom guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which specifically states that "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law." Any individual, who violates the law of the land, is bound to face consequences as per the law and in such a case, his/her freedom may be restricted depending upon the gravity of the offence. Therefore, a balance has to be struck between the right to individual liberty and the interest of society.
However, the pontification of the judge that ‘the offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister the vanity of governments’ is highly uncalled for. Further to say that ‘the evidence is scanty and sketchy’ amounts to not only interference in the investigation of the case but is also akin to the acquittal of the accused, while the investigation is still at the primary stage. Such observations do not cover the judiciary with any glory and therefore, must be avoided.