Legal Glossary of Inappropriate Gendered Terms to Be Out Soon: CJI Chandrachud

The CJI said that a committee chaired by Calcutta HC judge Moushumi Bhattacharya will also formulate gender-sensitive phrasing to set the standard for judges, lawyers and petitioners, so women are not casually referred to or spoken of in terms that are derogatory. 

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has said that he would soon reveal a legal glossary of inappropriate gendered terms which are often used in legal discourse in India.

According to a report in LiveLaw, Justice Chandrachud spoke of this critical but often ignored aspect of judgements in India, when women are casually referred to in derogatory ways which judges, lawyers and often women too, do not always recognise as patriarchal. 

This legal glossary has been prepared by a committee chaired by Calcutta high court judge, Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya. Others involved in this included former judges, Justice Prabha Sridevan and Justice Gita Mittal. Also, Professor Jhuma Sen who is currently an adjunct faculty member at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata.

The report says that the chief justice recalled an incident as an example of the terms, used for referring to women during legal-speak, that create a platform of discrimination. “For instance, I have come across judgments which have referred to a woman as a ‘concubine’ when she is in a relationship. Women have been called ‘keeps’ in judgements where there were applications for quashing of FIRs under the Domestic Violence Act and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code,” he said. 

He stressed that the purpose of eliminating these ‘inappropriate’ terms does not essentially target any judge or mean to “belittle” them. Underscoring that it was important to facilitate an understanding of “our problems within the mind,” he said, “Unless we are open about these facets, it will be difficult for us to evolve as a society.”

There must be zero tolerance for sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour targeting women, Justice Chandrachud is reported to have said in his keynote address. He said: “Even if part of those stories that I was told are believable, and I see no reason not to believe them because I think every one of them has a germ of trust, we need to ensure that there is zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour towards women, use of inappropriate language in relation to women, and even on cracking inappropriate jokes in the presence of women.”

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also said that work was on to create a large space reserved for women lawyers in the Supreme Court annexe complex. He was speaking at a belated celebration of the International Women’s Day, at an event organised by the Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee of the Supreme Court.

Last year in September, in a first-of-its-kind move, the Tamil Nadu government gazette published a glossary of LGBTQIA+ terms, to deepen sensitisation over other aspects of gender.