During a hearing at the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde schooled a lawyer for addressing him as “Your Honour” instead of “Your Lordship”.
The CJI asked him, “Are you appearing before the US Supreme Court? The use of ‘your honour’ is in US and not in Indian Supreme Court.”
The lawyer then went on to argue that there is no law that requires advocates to use a particular honorific to address the judges.
CJI Bobde said, “It may not be in the law but it is about practice of the court. We don't use ‘your honour’. Please use the terms that are used in practice in India.”
Over the years there have been a number of petitions filed in high courts and the Supreme Court, debating over the ways to address the judges, seeking a review on the colonial practice.
Interestingly, in 2014, Justice Bobde was part of the Supreme Court bench with Justice HL Dattu when then directed that it was not compulsory to call them “my lord”, “your lordship” or “your honour”.
It was during the hearing of lawyer Shiv Sagar Tiwari that Justices Bobde and Dattu said, “When did we say it is compulsory. You can only call us in a dignified manner."
Tiwari had sought a ruling for judges to be addressed in a uniform manner across India. He wanted a ban on the phrases “my lord or your lordship” in courts as it reeked of the colonial era and sign of slavery.
The SC bench had then said, “To address the court what do we want, only a respectable way of addressing. You call (judges) sir, it is accepted. You call it your honour, it is accepted. You call lordship it is accepted. These are some of the appropriate way of expression, which are accepted.”
On the contrary, many judges, including SC judge Ravindra Bhat and Punjab and Haryana HC Chief Justice S Muralidhar, have asked lawyers not to address them as ‘lordships’.