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Why must we persist in hanging on to colonial-era honorifics, asks Sumit Paul

Last week, the Supreme Court took exception to a petitioner addressing the judges as ‘Your Honour’, and reminded that it was the way in which judges had been addressed in the US Supreme Court.

“When you say Your Honour, you either have the Supreme Court of the United States or the Magistrate in mind,” Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, heading a three-judge bench, stated, because the petition by a legislation scholar looking for the court docket’s intervention in guaranteeing that judicial vacancies had been crammed up to sort out case backlog got here up for listening to.

Colonial hangover

Well, the ‘learned’ Chief Justice of India’s objection is legitimate however it’d have been higher had he urged, just like the legendary Chief Justice of India M C Chagla: “The moment a lawyer, petitioner or even a plaintiff calls me ‘Your Honour’, ‘Your Lordship’, or ‘My Lord’, a sense of uneasiness and embarrassment engulfs my whole existence and I request the person to call me just Mr Justice or Mr Chagla. These unnecessary lofty terms of address smack of slavery and colonial hangover.” (From ‘Roses in December’, deleted by the writer after his demise in 1981).

So very true! All these ‘over-respectful’ phrases are colonial modes of deal with utilized by the natives. Just a few years in the past, the President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, requested mediapersons and the general public, not to deal with him ‘His Excellency’ when ‘Mr President’ or on the most, ‘Sir’ could be sufficient. Why cling on to the out of date and defunct phrases of the Raj, he requested?

Different strokes

It’s fascinating to word that Durgadas talked about in his well-known guide ‘India from Curzon to Nehru and After’ that, “The Brits had a different attitude towards browns and blacks. They (Brits) treated the people of the continent of Africa as scum when African nations were the colonies of the erstwhile Great Britain. But they were slightly ‘respectful’ to the brown natives of the sub-continent, who they treated comparatively less pejoratively…’ (Page 83).

That’s why when Bhagat Singh was tried for hurling a bomb at the Central Legislative Assembly and also for the murder of Saunders at a court in Lahore, he addressed the judge Mike Simpson as Mr Simpson and at a higher court, he addressed the senior judge Allen Covey as Mr Covey. Bhagat Singh was just 21 or 22 years old at that time (he was hanged at the age of 23), yet he was full of self-respect and despite India being colonised, the brave young man didn’t grovel like today’s Indians of a ‘free’ nation. He called the English judges as Mr so-and-so and none of them ever objected that the young man wasn’t upholding the dignity of the court.

This is the attitude. Why can’t the people, plaintiffs and lawyers of a ‘free’ nation like India call the judges as Mr/Ms/Mrs so and so? Do you know that even in a failed country like Pakistan, lawyers and petitioners address the judges of the lower court, sessions court, high court and Supreme Court as janaab and janaba so and so. The same system is prevalent in Saudi Arabia, which is an extremely strict country. Mr or Monsieur Justice are commonly used terms in the parlance of the judiciary in most European countries.

Servile mentality

There’s a specimen letter at the library of Calcutta University. Way back in 1936, when the great Frank Fowler (younger brother of the linguist Graham Fowler, famous worldwide for Fowler’s English Grammar) was the head of the department of English at Calcutta University, his subordinate professor Nilkant Mukherjee wrote an application to him (Fowler), ending it with ‘Your most obedient slave’! Appalled, the gentle genius immediately called Mukherjee and asked him, “When did I hire you as a slave? Please never use such demeaning terms. Just write, Mr Fowler.”

Using essentially the most servile and exasperating honorifics and phrases of deal with is a nationwide attribute of Indians. Here, each different particular person is an uncle, aunt, His Holiness, Sadhguru, Sri Sri and what not. The proclivity to use sahab, maharaj, tai, didi, uncle and all that jazz is definitely disrespectful and totally frivolous. But so naive are Indians that they don’t know this.

So, it’s time to dispense with these slavish and most disparaging phrases like Your Honour, My Lord, Your Lordship. Indians have not but come out of the colonial hangover. This saddens an individual of self-respect.

Lastly, the primary CJI, Harilal J Kania urged the elimination of Your Honour, Your Lordship and many others. method again in 1949. Readers must know that through the trial at Red Fort for the assassination of M Okay Gandhi, Nathuram Godse and N D Apte addressed all judges as Mr so and so and no choose took umbrage!

The author is a complicated analysis scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and cultures.

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