ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Beg to Humbly Pray’

The language of our courts is strange, archaic, and can lead to fostering inequity.

A few weeks ago, I found myself, for the first time in my 11 years as a lawyer, talking to a sitting high court judge on the phone. And, for the first time, I was unsure of whether to address him as “Your Lordship” or not. I fumbled between “Sir” and “Lordship,” and “M’lord,” and even “Sirship” at one point. I have a thumb rule: I address them as “Lord” within the courts, and “Sir” or “Madam” outside. But, it’s hard to follow that rule when you are in the presence of one of the Lords. 

In this independent, post-constitutional country, what are judges the Lords of, anyway? Why do advocates “beg to humbly pray” before them? Why is a claim (often of one’s right) or a legitimate remedy for one’s wrongs called a “prayer”? Why are judges “pleased” to award sentences? Why do advocates often find themselves “in Lordship’s hands”? Why do advocates start any request to the bench with “May it please my Lords”? What if it doesn’t please them? Why are advocates “much obliged” to the Lordships for everything from an adjournment to a decree?

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Updated On : 8th Feb, 2019


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