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

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A Welcome Change in Legal Language


Why is it important for judges to use the correct language when authoring decisions? Is it necessary, especially if it does not affect the outcome of the case? As the Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes launched by the Supreme Court rightly points out, the stereotypical language used by judges will only reinforce the anti-constitutional and archaic ideas found in our society, thus undermining the individuality and dignity of a person before the Court. Another worrisome fact highlighted by this handbook is that the language of a judge is also a reflection of their own perception of the society. While recognising the importance of using the correct language, the Chief Justice of India mentioned an instance where an amendment was made concerning a word in a procedural code, not to serve a legal purpose but to humanise the group it was referring to. It was the word “pauper” used in the Code of Civil Procedure, meant to refer to people with poor financial means that was later replaced by the word “indigent.”

The handbook lays down some of the stereotypes prevalent in society, especially against women but not limited to them, that must be avoided by judges and the legal community in judicial decision-making. It has also recommended certain gender-just terms that can be used when authoring judgments or drafting pleadings. It states that instead of referring to someone as a “career woman,” “Indian” or “Western” woman, “slut,” “seductress,” “whore,” “woman of loose morals,” “woman of easy virtue,” “fallen woman,” etc, the Court should just call them who they are, that is, woman.

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Updated On : 4th Sep, 2023
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