DECORUM AND DRESS CODE IN INDIAN COURTROOMS
Author: Gauri Sharma, IV year of B.B.A.,LL.B. from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad
The concept of courtroom decorum is not only a necessity to establish respect for the Judges and the lawyers but an essential measure to render the administration of justice in society. Thus, advocacy is considered a noble profession that cannot be compared with other professions such as business and trade. Professional ethics under the law is generally considered as the duties that are performed by the advocates. Thus, the objective of professional ethics in the legal world is to maintain dignity, decorum and a friendly atmosphere in the work environment that leads to the smooth functioning of the courts.
Decorum Required in the Courtroom
The Bar Council of India has set professional standards for the advocates to be followed in the form of duties which shall be performed towards the courts, their clients, opponents and fellow members which is quite a formal process. Thus, in the courts, the advocates are requested to act in a distinguished manner as while presenting the case before the court, the advocate shall act in a dignified manner and hold him with self-respect. However, in the cases of serious complaints against any judicial officer of the court, the advocate shall have the right to complain and submit grievances to the respected authorities. An advocate shall respect the court and shall bow before the judges as soon as he enters the courtroom. He should keep in mind the dignity and respect for the judicial officers which is essential for the survival of the free community. Moreover, while leaving the courtroom, one shall never show its back to the Judges. An advocate shall not communicate in private as he is barred to communicate to any judge privately.
It is also the duty of the advocate not to act improperly with the opposite counsel, the parties to the case and also prevent his clients to do the same. He shall not refuse to engage with those clients who indulge in illegal activities. Thus, the advocates shall not trust their clients blindly and shall speak in a dignified manner during the arguments presented before the court and shall not damage the reputation of the opposite parties on false grounds. Moreover, an advocate shall not appear before the court or practice for those who are about him such as a father, son, daughter, etc. Such as in Stayendra Singh v. Ram Singh & Ors., the court held that an advocate shall not appear before the court as his wife was a Judge in that case, if he appears, it shall be considered as professional misconduct. The other instances include carrying of firearms in the court proceedings, which shall be also treated against the dignity of the legal profession. An advocate shall not appear for the cases before the court where he is a member or under the management of an establishment until and unless he is appearing as amicus curaie or without any fee for Bar Council or Association or any Incorporated Law Society. Moreover, he shall not appear in the case in which he has a pecuniary interest such as in the bankruptcy petition. In cases of surety or case to certify the soundness of surety for the utility of any legal proceeding, the advocate shall be barred to appear.
The advocate shall wear the prescribed dress code as per the Bar Council of India rules. For instance, the advocates are not allowed to wear their gowns or white bands in public places. Moreover, the advocates have a duty towards their clients such as not to withdraw from service or give full disclosure to clients, etc whereas, under duties towards their fellow members, it includes the duty of not to advertise or promote any unauthorized practices, etc. The other major duties of the advocate that helps in maintaining orderliness in the courtroom include being cooperative with the bench or a judge during proceedings. Also, he shall not laugh or talk loudly in the courtroom especially where the proceedings are going on. He is required to either switch off his mobile phone or put it on silent mode and shall stand on the arrival of the entry of the Judges to mark respect and honour. If an advocate has accepted a case brief, he must attend and be present at all the adjournments and if he has his case in another court during that time, the advocate is obligated to take permission from the respected court. Last but not the least, an advocate cannot leave the court while his proceeding is going on or he shall ensure that his colleagues or juniors take charge of it.
Evolution of Legal Dress Code and Conduct
Every profession consists of a set of rules and guidelines which shall be followed by individuals concerning the dress code or the code of conduct during the period of practice. Such rules of mannerism and decorum are framed to ensure respect for authorities and dignity. In the legal profession, the decorum and the dress code is governed by the Bar Council of India Rules present under the Advocates Act, 1961 which makes it mandatory for every lawyer to wear a black robe with a white shirt followed by a white neckband which not only increases the confidence among lawyers but also act as a measure to ensure discipline in such profession.
The evolution of dress codes begins from the era of the middle ages where the lawyers also called solicitors, barristers used to dress like judges such as in Britain, barristers used to wear a black gown, coifs, skullcaps with long gloves based on the rules of Inns of Court which was the supervisor of education and governed membership of the barristers. However, the barrister who didn’t have any case before the court, used to wear open gowns with winged sleeves. However, in the 17th century, the dress code was decided based on taste and preferences based on seasons such as in winter, to keep judges warm, violet silk gowns were worn by the judges and replaced by miniver in summer. Coming into the 21st century, the dress code faced a huge transformation concerning the colours and authorities deciding for the same. In this period, the barristers in Britain used to wear black silk gowns over the suits with a tie, wig and bands.
The black colour represents to depict submission to God and in the case of the legal profession; it symbolizes submission to Justice. Thus, the black gown provides a sense of seriousness, uniqueness and conveys knowledge, authority and steadiness of such individuals whereas white represents light and goodness which also portrays that law is blind.
Regulations of Dress Code in India
“Part VI- Chapter IV, The Regulations of the Bar Council of India Dress Code under Sec. 49(1) (gg) of the Advocates Act, 1961” prescribes the dress code of the advocates in Indian Courtroom which contains the form of dress/robes that shall be worn by advocates considering various factors such as weather conditions occurring before any tribunal or a court. Thus, the dress code includes a coat which shall be black in colour and buttoned up or the other alternatives include black sherwani, achkan, chapkan worn with a white band followed by the gown or it can be a black open breast coat as well followed by a white-collar which may be stiff or soft with a white band and the gown. In both, cases, long trousers of colours such as white, black, grey or dhoti shall be allowed excluding the jeans. Also, a black-tie shall be worn in any other courts except the courts such as Supreme Court, High Courts, District, Sessions and City Civil Courts as in such courts, the white bands shall be worn. The white band consisting of two pieces depicts innocence which together is known as “Tablets of Law laws or Tablets of Stones” as according to Christian belief, these tablets were used by Moses for carving commandments from a burning bush, the white band is considered to have a similar shape to that of tablets which symbolizes the upholding of laws created by God and Men.
For women, the same guidelines have been given. In addition to that, women may wear a black full-sleeved jacket or a blouse with a band. Also, they may wear a saree, long skirts or flares which may be black and white in colour or grey or striped. The options include a Punjabi dress which salwar suit with or without a dupatta. Moreover, the advocate’s gown is kept as non-compulsory instead in SC or HC.
Considering the attire of senior advocates in India, the Advocates Act does not specify any regulations for the same but Senior Advocates wear a divergent gown consisting of a Queen’s Counsel gown. On the other hand, the dress code of Judges is similar to that of Senior Advocates. Thus, the judges wear a white shirt with trousers followed by a white band and a black gown whereas female judges have also an option of traditional wear. According to the rules, he shall not be allowed to wear a band or a gown at general gatherings. Thus, restricting their use only to the courts or allowing at such events where the Bar Council permits and any violation of such rule may result in professional misconduct. Due, to COVID- 19, since virtual hearings are prevalent, the Supreme Court has directed the advocates to wear plain white shirts/ kurta with the neckband. Moreover, the High Courts have also notified a change in such dress code until further orders based on the medical exigencies. However, public interest litigation has been filed in Allahabad High Court for a ban on the existing dress code of lawyers where the notice has been issued to BCI as well as the Centre recently as the present dress code is not suitable according to the climatic conditions and it violates Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.
From the present research, it can be concluded that the duties of an advocate are wide where the main duty of an advocate is to maintain the decorum of court and act nicely towards the colleagues, opponents and other staff which shall be performed with due diligence. He shall always work for the interest of his clients and shall keep the information between them confidential. Advocates are the officers of the court and prestigious members of the community. Thus, they should act fearlessly while keeping their points in court. As studied, the Bar Council of India prohibits activities such as having private communication with the judges for pending cases, such types rules and regulation not only helps the litigants and the parties to the case but also help to sustain the faith and inspiration in the eyes of the general public. It has also been observed the dress code followed in Indian courts is a matter of seriousness which ensures pride and discipline in the legal profession and any violation of it can result in serious repercussions such as during online hearing of a bail application, the High Court of Gujarat fined an advocate a penalty of Rs, 10,000 for just wearing a vest during the proceedings. And various other instances have been witnessed by the Judges across the country. Therefore, all the duties under the Advocates Act for morals and ethics helps to ensure earnestness in the legal profession and makes one be at a superior and reach to a successful level of position
 Stayendra Singh v. Ram Singh & Ors.,AIR 1984 SC 1755.
 UP Sales Tax Service Association v. Taxation Bar Association, AIR 1996 SC 98.
 BCI, Rules of Professional Standards, (October, 7,2021, 4:12 PM), http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/professional-standards/rules-on-professional-standards/
 Niharika, Advocate’s Duty towards the Court, (October, 8, 2021, 5:30 PM), https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2373-advocate-s-duty-towards-court.html .
 Lynda K Hopewell, Appropriate Attire and Conduct for an Attorney in Courtroom ( 7 October, 2021, 122:!5 PM), https://www.law.ua.edu/pubs/jlp_files/issues_files/vol12/vol12art13.pdf
 Shaheen Parween, Lawyer’s Dress Code: Evolution and Practice, (7October, 2021,4:16 PM), https://www.indialegallive.com/special-story/lawyers-dress-code-evolution-practice/
Janet Reno, Historical Background in Wearing Black Robes by Advocates, ( October 7,2021, 10:55 PM), https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-665-historical-background-in-wearing-black-robes-by-advocates.html
 Re Ashok Pandey, Suo Moto Contempt Petition No. 1493 of 2021.
 Hindustan Times, Judges shocked as advocate appears shitless, (October 7, 2021, 6:12 PM), https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/this-is-something-unpardonable-judges-shocked-as-advocate-appearsshirtless-for-online-hearing/story-g9rLVictYmQHOmWG2KOu5L.html .