Queer lawyer requests CJI for gender-inclusive appearance slips in courts

Advocate Rohin Bhatt sent the letter to the CJI on November 26 via email, saying that such a small step will go a long way in improving experiences within the legal system for trans, gender non-conforming and gender diverse lawyers.

New Delhi: A queer lawyer practising before the Supreme Court has written to the Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud with a request to modify the appearance slips in the Supreme Court to include an additional column for mentioning people’s pronouns so that they may be correctly used in the court’s orders or judgments.

“While this may seem simple, and such a change will only require an administrative direction from you, it will go a long way in affirming the identities of the queer lawyers that appear before the Supreme Court,” the letter written by the lawyer stated.

Advocate Rohin Bhatt sent the letter to the CJI on November 26 via email, saying that such a small step will go a long way in improving experiences within the legal system for trans, gender non-conforming and gender diverse lawyers.

“This will help the court to identify correct pronouns and forms of address by adopting one practice that applies equally to all and will go a long way in avoiding lawyers or parties having to raise the issue only after incorrect titles or pronouns are used. This will go a long way in addressing gender dysmorphia in queer lawyers,” read the letter.

“Finally, this will herald in a new era of a queer-friendly judiciary that supports a shift in professional practice towards asking all people how they should be respectfully addressed, acknowledging that this should not be assumed based on name, appearance or voice,” the letter stated.

Bhatt wrote that the use of correct pronouns in orders and judgements of the court will affirm identities and challenge discriminatory attitudes, which, as the CJI will be well aware, is heightened when the subject of these attitudes is queer. “The wrong pronouns in orders and judgements can disempower, demean, and reinforce exclusion,” stated the letter.

“Clarity and precision have been paramount in legal writing. When half of today’s law students are women, and queer people are becoming more visible by the day in the legal profession, the Supreme Court should embrace language that is truly inclusive in its orders,” Bhatt said.

The lawyer also attached a sample of a modified appearance slip with the suggested changes along with the letter. “I, therefore, respectfully approach you with a request to modify the appearance slips forthwith as a part of the fundamental right of every citizen to the self-determination of gender as also to turn the court into an institution that is inclusive of all the citizens, queer or not,” Bhatt said in the letter to the CJI.

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