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Respectful Language in Legal Pleadings

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Respectful Language in Legal Pleadings
By Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma
Posted: 2023-09-28T14:11:58Z

Delhi High Court Calls for Respectful Language in Legal Pleadings, Recommends Supreme Court's Gender Stereotype Handbook

The Delhi High Court has emphasized that it is inappropriate to employ derogatory terms in legal pleadings that reinforce gender stereotypes and demean individuals based on their gender.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma has suggested using the 'Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes,' recently released by the Supreme Court, as a valuable resource when drafting legal documents, including pleadings, orders, and judgments.

In the court's words, "By actively challenging and discarding gender stereotypes in their language, actions, and interactions, the legal fraternity can contribute to dismantling entrenched and hidden biases that have persisted in our society for far too long. This necessitates avoiding the use of derogatory terms that perpetuate stereotypes and undermine the dignity and rights of individuals based on their gender."

Furthermore, the court has stressed that it is the responsibility of the legal community to promote a culture of gender sensitivity and uphold principles of fairness and respect in both professional conduct and legal documents.

While acknowledging the adversarial nature of the criminal legal system, which sometimes leads to strong language in legal pleadings, the court made it clear that such language should never cross the boundary into offensiveness. The court urged lawyers to maintain a dignified tone in pleadings, even when pursuing justice vigorously.

These observations were made in a case where a woman challenged a trial court's decision to grant anticipatory bail to a man accused of rape under false promises of marriage. Although the court did not cancel the bail, it expressed strong objections to the derogatory language used by the accused against the woman in his counter affidavit.

The accused had used phrases such as "extremely wicked or villainous designs," "seductive acts," and derogatory remarks about the woman's marital status. The court condemned such language, emphasizing that it goes beyond the acceptable bounds of language expected in legal pleadings and undermines the dignity of individuals based on their gender.

In conclusion, the Delhi High Court's call for respectful and non-derogatory language in legal pleadings is a crucial step toward promoting gender sensitivity and dignity in the legal profession and upholding the principles of equality, fairness, and respect for all.

Link to the Judgment: