The question around the colour code a lawyer’s dress has always been in the air. Interestingly, so many people have no clue about it. Even some of those, who practice law, do not seem to know about it either. It’s a well-known fact that most people are curious to expand their knowledge on the matter.
Well, every profession has some sort of uniform, which makes it easier for people to distinguish and recognize them all.
You can identify a doctor through his white apron and the same way, a lawyer through his black & white dress. However, the dress code of lawyers may vary across the globe. This slight difference signifies the local cultural and traditional requirements.
Straight Forward Reason
One can not paint any other colour on black, the same way, the order of a judge is final. No one can change the order of a judge. For lawyers, the colour signifies their attention and promise towards their thoughts, opinions and interpretation of the law.
It is believed that black colour, besides being a status symbol, brings discipline and confidence among lawyers. This is because black represents power and authority.
To find out the answer to the question, let’s get into the time machine and travel straight back to the 17th Century.
Queen Mary II of England died of smallpox back in December 1694. Her death came as devastation to her husband, King William III. After having preserved her body for a week, it was buried at Westminister Abbey on March 5, 1965.
William was in such shock that he ordered every judge and lawyer to wear black gowns while in court. This was intended to mourn the death of the queen. The order was never revoked ever since.
What Makes it Mandatory in India?
Section 49 of the Advocates Act, 1961 renders it necessary for lawyers appearing before any court or tribunal to wear a dignified dress. Since India has adopted quite a lot of features from the British, the trend of wearing black in the courtroom never left even after the Britishers did.
Deviation in the dress code didn’t surface until some women lawyers began wearing printed sarees inside the court. They are allowed to wear black sarees, salwar and now trousers as well. However, jeans are completely prohibited in court. Women can’t wear loud jewellery and bright lipstick as well.
Challenge to the Dress Code
Advocate Deepak J M was denied hearing by a District Court Judge in Kearal for not wearing a black coat inside the courtroom. He wore a white shirt, black trousers and a black tie.
Later in March 2019, he moved Kerala High Court through a Writ Petition seeking exemption from wearing black coat in lower courts during summer. In his petition, he had mentioned the fact that Kerala is hit by unprecedented heat during summers. He went on to add how most of the lower courts even lack the basic facilities for lawyers and their clients. Adding to his pleadings, he mentioned that some of the lower courts do not even have operational fans.
He also mentioned as per circular number 6/2002 issued by Bar Council of India on January 25, 2002, exempted lawyers from wearing black coats in the courtroom except for in the Supreme Court and High Courts during the summers. The amendment so made was approved by the then Chief Justice of India as well.