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13th November – Judgements should be simple

Judgements should be made easier to comprehend

A lawyer has recently filed a PIL in Supreme Court (Subhash Vijayran versus Union of India). He wants the legislature and the executive to use plain English in drafting laws, Bar Council to introduce plain English in law curricula and Supreme Court to only allow concise and precise pleadings.

What is the argument?

He begins the synopsis to the writ petition in the following way. “The writing of most Lawyers is: (1) wordy, (2) unclear, (3) pompous and (4) dull. We use eight words to say what can be said in two. We use arcane phrases to express commonplace ideas”. Reacting to the plea, the Supreme Court has asked the ministry of law and justice and the Bar Council to respond.

Example –

In a judgement from the Supreme Court (Subramanian Swamy versus Union of India), the court had ruled that “This batch of writ petitions preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution of India exposits cavil in its quintessential conceptuality and percipient discord between the venerated and exalted right of freedom of speech and expression of an individual, exploring manifold and multi-layered, limitless, unbounded and unfettered spectrums, and the controls, restrictions and constrictions, under the assumed power of “reasonableness” ingrained in the statutory provisions relating to criminal law to reviver and uphold one’s reputation”.

What could be the way forward?

One could learn from the George Orwell’s 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, which was primarily directed against the Soviet Union. George Orwell set out six principles. “(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do. (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active. (v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous”. Copy editors routinely use these principles, but not judiciary.

SourceFinancial Express

QUESTION – It is argued that the judgements given by our judiciary are too complicated for the common man to comprehend. Suggest what can be done to make it simpler to comprehend.

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