The dispute over whether judges should be addressed with the formally acquiescent British-era “My Lord” or “Your Honour” was briefly revived on February 23 at the Gujarat high court, where a woman Chief Justice sided with “sir” as a “gender-neutral” alternative.
During a hearing, a lawyer addressed the division bench of Chief Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Sandip Bhatt as “Your Ladyship” on multiple occasions. The counsel quickly apologised when the bench pointed out that he should have acknowledged both judges instead of just one.
The attorney apologised a second time to Justice Bhatt after the conclusion of the case’s arguments, explaining that he never intended to address only one judge and that he should have used “My Lords” instead.
In response, Chief Judge Gokani stated, “In the General Clauses Act, we frequently say he includes her, and occasionally she includes him as well.”
She cited the previous chief justice of the high court, Bhaskar Bhattacharya, on the topic of addressing judges: “Since there were no women judges in the past, “Her ladyship” was never used to address the court or a judge. A senior attorney remarked, “Her Ladyship was certainly not the proper way to address a female judge.”
He stated, “Technically, it is “My Lady.” Chief Justice Gokani stated that the traditional appellations for judges were “extremely feudalistic” and remnants of colonialism.
“We feel that either “sir” or “madam” should be used… It ought to be Sir. This is the correct method as opposed to “My lord” or “Your honor.” Therefore, let it be gender neutral.” Chief Justice Gokani cited a discussion at the National Judicial Academy in which another former chief justice, SJ Mukhopadhyay, noted that many lawyers in Gujarat have already switched to “sir.” This was in response to the courtroom’s lawyers’ assertion that switching to “sir” or “madam” would be difficult.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) enacted a resolution in 2006 prohibiting the use of colonial relics such as “My Lord” and “Your Lordship.”