Being A Lawyer Is Not Merely A Vocation. It Is A Public Trust, And Each
Of Us Has An Obligation To Give Back To Our Communities. - -
Dress Code is a 'Symbol of Confidence', a 'Symbol of Discipline' and a 'Symbol
of the Profession', a 'Proud Part of an Individual’s Personality' for a
professional. The balance between maintaining Court’s Decorum and permitting
freedom in individual’s lifestyle is most well defined in a Lawyer’s Dress Code.
The professional environment generally is marked by a code for dressing- in
terms of colour, style. Dress Code is a part of dignity and professionalism with
little exception. The outfit of Judges and Advocates with Judicial Robes seems a
mark of dignity and loyalty towards the Court and the Justice. The colour Black
is not touched by display of Colours.
Black and White is a symbol of the Legal Profession throughout the world barring
few exceptions. Black colour generally has many different overtones. Like every
colour, it has both positive and negative connotations. So, on one hand, it
signifies death, evil and mystery while on the other hand, it signifies the
strength and authority.
The Black colour was chosen because of two reasons. Firstly, colours and dyes
were not readily available back then. Purple signified royalty and thus, the
only abundant fabric colour left was black. However, the main reason behind
wearing a 'Black Coat' is because black is the colour of authority and power.
Black represents submission of oneself. Just like Priests wear Black to show
their submission to God, Lawyers wear black to show their submission to Justice.
The colour white signifies light, goodness.
The colour white signifies light, goodness, innocence, and purity. As a legal
system is the only hope of justice for a common man, the colour white is chosen
to represent him. Lawyers both the sides- petitioner and respondent wear a
similar dress code. The significance of the colour also highlights that law is
blind. To say that it is only based differentiates on the weight of evidence and
not on any other factor.
The 'Black Robe' lends seriousness to the identity of Advocate and provides
unique visual character to their professional image. Wearing 'Black Robe'
creates a sense of discipline among Lawyers and gives them a sense of Power and
feeling of being upholders of Rights and Justice. Since Black colour is a symbol
of dignity, honour, wisdom and Justice and these are the values which every
Lawyer and Judge has to keep up with. The 'Black Robes' coveys the message of
authority, knowledge, meticulousness and steadiness,
A white neck-band symbolises innocence. The two pieces of white cloth joined
together to form the Advocate’s bands represent the 'Tablets of the Laws' or
'Tablets of Stone'. These are the tablets that, according to the Christian
belief, were used by Moses for inscribing the ten commandments, which he
received from a burning bush on Mt. Sinai. The ten commandments are believed to
be the first example of a uniform coded law. The shape of the band is also
similar to the rounded off rectangular tablets. Thus, the white advocate’s bands
represent the upholding of the laws of God and of men.
Black means opaque and, therefore, the sides of the prosecution and defence are
presumed to be unknown until they are substantiated by law, thereby, 'Black
Gowns'. The American standards of criminal justice say that because the attorney
is an 'Officer of the Court', he should support Court’s dignity by following the
Court Rules of Decorum. Traditionally, English Courts regulated Barrister’s
Dress Code in such a manner, that even the growth of attorney’s beard or cut of
his clothes was subject to scrutiny. India in terms of lawyer’s dress code
inherited the system after British Rule with minor modifications with times.
The history of the 'Black Coat' dates back to 1327 when Edward III formulated
the costumes for Judges based on the "Dress Code" for attending the "Royal
Court". At the end of the 13th Century, the structure of the Legal Profession in
British was strictly divided between Judges; Sergeants, who wore a white
coiffure wig on their heads and practised from St. Paul's Cathedral; and the
four Inns of Court, divided into Students, Pleaders, Benchers (the Ruling Body
of the Inn) and Barristers, who were mostly hailing from Royal and Wealthy
families. The English Judicial Costumes worn by the Judges are the most
distinctive working wardrobe in existence for more than six centuries (Baker,
1978). The Costumes for the Judges were more or less established by the time of
British King Edward III (1327-1377) for attending the Royal Court. The material
for ceremonial dress or robes was originally given to Judges as a Grant from the
Crown. The Division of Legal Profession in England dates back to 1340, paving
the way for the evolution of Professional Advocacy (Waker, 1980). In 1340, in a
public reaction, general public opposed the length of the Judicial Attire but
the Lawyers obstinately decided to adhere to the Long Robes. The Judges during
the medieval era wore Violet Robes in the winter and Green Robes in the summer.
The Green Summer Robes fell into disguise by 1534 and after 1534 only the Black
and Violet Robes were usually worn. However, Robes can be interpreted to mean
Wig and Gown (Abdulraheem, 2006).
Apart from Clergy and the Military, Legal Professionals used to wear Gowns. In
Europe as far as Forensic Dress is concerned, a scholastic and ecclesiastical
tradition goes back to the days when long mantles were worn by the avocati-consistorial
of Papal Courts and the Lawyers of the Roman Sapienza. Reverend Advocates in
ecclesiastical and Secular Courts used to wear 'Toga' which subsequently came to
be the Pleaders Uniform. Long Robes were imported into the Courts first by the
Priest-Original Judges and later by those who patronized the Courts since 13th
Century (Haque, 2012). In ancient Rome, a Judge used to wear a 'Purple Trimmed
Toga' when performing his duties as a Judge to derive his authority from
Monarchies or Feudal Lords. In England, Codification of Rules for English
Judicial Uniform occurred with the Judge's Rules, 1635. The Rules introduced no
change rather set out what and when existing costumes to be worn. After 1635 a
'Black Robe' with a Light Colour Fur or Coat in winter and Violet or Scarlet
Robes with Short-Pink Taffeta in summer was introduced. A Black Girdle or
Cincture was worn with all Robes. By the end of 1680's two rectangles of linen
used to be tied at the throat. So, in England Judges, Barristers and Solicitors
in the 17th Century were using Black Coats, Gowns, White Bands and traditional
Three stories are found in England regarding using of Robes. Firstly, Robes
adopted in 1685 as the symbol of morning for King Charles II. These "Mourning
Robes" were designed to have pleated shoulders and bell-shaped sleeves. Again,
the higher ranking Lawyer's Robes set them apart with flap collars and different
sleeves. Similar such Robes are worn today. The wigs also follow the fashion of
that era. It was believed that Gowns and Wigs gave a degree of anonymity to
Judges and Lawyers. Different styles of Wigs were used depending on the
hierarchy. Bands, the Official Neckwear, also originated in United Kingdom,
where these were used for Legal, Official, Clerical, Priestly and Academic use.
Secondly, in 1694 it was found that all of the Nations Judges attended the
funeral of Queen Mary II dressed in Black Robes as a sign of Morning. Since the
mourning period lasted a few more years after Mary's burial, the custom of
wearing Black Robes became entrenched in the English Judiciary. Thirdly, in
memory of Queen Anne in 1714, the same mourning was followed. Italian Judges
resembling English Judges in the 18th Century wore Black Robes, White Bands and
White Wigs. Thus from the tradition of three Monarchs, the Black Robes tradition
spread around the British and then surrounded in the world and still persists
today as part of the Britain's colonial adventures (Fred, 1978).
But this is the custom started by British. They did so, because it was fashion
of that particular era or they probably used it because of the local climatic
conditions. As the Rulers, they imposed the same culture and customs on the
'colonies' they acquired without taking into consideration the local climatic
requirements or general socio-economic conditions. However, many of these
'colonies' continued with legacy and adopted the same system, the same culture,
the same laws and even the same dress without any changes even after they freed
themselves from the imperial rule.
As the Indian system is influenced by its British rulers due to their reign, the
Advocate’s Act of 1961 makes it mandatory for a lawyer to wear a 'Black Robe' or
'coat' with a white neckband on top of it in the continuity of the same.
The rules framed under Section 49(1)(gg) of the Advocates Act, 1961, prescribe
the same dress for all the advocates irrespective of whether they are designated
Senior Advocates or other advocates as follows:
Form of Dress or Robes To Be Worn By Advocates
[Rule Under Section 49(1)(GG) of The Act]
Advocates, appearing in the Supreme Court, High Court, subordinate courts,
tribunals or authorities shall wear the following as part of their dress which
shall be sober and dignified;
Advocates other than lady advocates:
1. (a) a black buttoned-up coat,chapkan,achkan, blacksherwaniand white bands
with advocate’s gown, or
(b) a black open breast coat, white collar, stiff or soft, and white bands with
In either case long trousers (white, black, striped or grey) ordhoti.
2. (a) black and full or half-sleeve jacket or blouse, white collar, stiff or
soft, and white bands with advocates’ gowns;
(b) sarees or long skirts (white or black or any mellow or subdued colour
without any print or design) or flares (white, black or black-striped or gray):
Provided that the wearing of advocate’s gown shall be optional except when
appearing in the Supreme Court or in a High Court.
Provided further that in court other than the Supreme Court, High Court,
District Court, Sessions Court or City Civil Court, a black tie may be worn
instead of bands.”
Even Notification No. 3 of 1958 dated 28.08.1958, issued by High Court of
Judicature, Jammu & Kashmir, prescribes the Dress Code to be worn by the Legal
Practitioners when appearing in the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and the courts
subordinate to High Court.
Except in Supreme Court and High Courts, during summer wearing black coat is not
mandatory. These amendments have been approved by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of
India Vide Letter Dated. 12.11.2001 subject to the incorporation of "except in
Supreme Court & High Court during summer wearing a 'Black Coat' is not
mandatory" which is now added as Rule IV of the Bar Council Rules. This was
based on representation based on a group of lawyers from Tamil Nadu.
The amended Rules in Chapter IV, Part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules
relating to “Form of Dresses or Robes to be worn by Advocates” had been
communicated to the State Bar Councils Vide Circular No. 6/2002 dated
25.01.2002. The Bar Council of India at its meeting dated 23rd/24th February
2002 considered the doubts raised relating to Dress Rules and after
consideration, the following decision has been taken:
“In the change brought about in the dress rules, there appears to be some
confusion in so far as the subordinate courts are concerned. For removal of any
doubt it is clarified that so far as the courts other than Supreme Court and
High Courts are concerned during summer while wearing 'Black Coat' is not
mandatory, the advocates may appear in a white shirt with black or striped or
gray pant with black tie or band and collar”.
Like Law, the 'Black Coat' is full of fascination and admiration and somehow
there is also an enormous compassion for this mystical object. The 'Dress Code'
expresses sanctity and commitment of the Lawyers towards Judicial Institutions
and enhances their responsibility for the profession. The 'Dress Code' is not
merely a status symbol but however enables to bring out discipline among the
Lawyers and also gives the strength and confidence to fight for Justice. It
also gives the Lawyers and distinct personality from other professionals.
Wearing appropriate clothes in a Courtroom is extremely important. The Judicial
system is considered as one of the most respectable system, so showing respect
to the system and the people involved in the system gets essential. The Judges
in the Courtroom can refuse audience to a Lawyer if he is dressed up
inappropriately. This is the reason why not only Lawyers but every individual
who participates in the Court should follow a certain 'Dress Code', The basic
Rule for dressing is to dress up conservatively. Wearing casual and shabby
clothes in the Courtroom is considered as disrespect to the Law.
Law has a lot to do with appearance. It is necessary that the Lawyer is able to
gain the trust of the client, the Judges and the Jury. It is rightly said that
the first impression is not the last but instead the lasting impression and so
it is essential that the professional dressing enables a Lawyer to gain that
trust and faith from the client, the Judges and fellow Lawyers, Jury and the
society at large.
Dinesh Singh Chauhan, Advocate
High Court of Judicature, J&K, Jammu.
Email: [email protected], [email protected]