Justice PS Narasimha, a distinguished judge of the Supreme Court, has recently expressed his dissatisfaction with being repeatedly addressed as “Your Lordship” and “My Lord.” During a hearing, Justice Narasimha made a notable remark when a lawyer continued to use these traditional honorifics.
He remarked, “How many times will you say ‘My Lords’? If you stop saying this, then I will give you half of my salary.” With a touch of humor, he suggested, “Why don’t you use ‘Sir’ instead?” The judge’s candid response reflects a growing trend among judges who are encouraging lawyers to use simpler and less archaic forms of address.
While several judges have openly discouraged the practice of using “My Lord” and “Your Lordship,” which have colonial origins, lawyers often continue to use them out of habit.
In fact, the Bar Council of India took a significant step in 2006 when it passed a resolution prohibiting the usage of such terms, emphasizing that this practice was a relic of the colonial past.
Justice K. Chandru of the Madras High Court set a notable precedent in 2009 when he asked lawyers to refrain from using “My Lord.” Similarly, former Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, Justice S. Muralidhar, formally requested lawyers to consider avoiding addressing him as “your lordship” or “my lord.”
Former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, Thottathil B. Nair Radhakrishnan, went a step further by addressing a letter to the officers of the district judiciary, including members of the Registry. In his letter, he expressed his desire to be addressed as “Sir” instead of “My Lord” or “Lordship.”
In 2019, the Rajasthan High Court issued a significant notice, requesting lawyers and those appearing before the judges to desist from addressing the Hon’ble Judges as “My Lord” and “Your Lordship.” This notice came in response to a unanimous resolution passed by the Full Court during a meeting on July 14th. The resolution was driven by a desire to honor the mandate of equality enshrined in the Constitution of India.
These developments illustrate a growing shift away from traditional and colonial-era honorifics in the legal profession. Judges like Justice PS Narasimha, who openly discourage the use of such titles, are contributing to the transformation of legal etiquette in India. This change aligns with the broader goal of promoting equality and modernizing the legal system to reflect contemporary values.