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South Asia

Post-Colonial India and Legal dress code



Authors: Dr S. Anandha Krishna Raj & Prof. S.Vinusowndarya*

The legal dress code of India is the continuation of the United Kingdom dress code. Dress code signifies the profession and concurrently the era. The British Imperialism established the Judiciary in colonial India and even after independence; it retained not only its administrative and other systems but also the legal system. In post-colonial India, some of the age-old European values and laws were abolished. Section 377 is repealed considering modern development. Similarly, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is removed because of its patriarchal nature and considering women as property. The British dress code also went for reform in India, particularly in getting rid of the wigs. Northern parts of India relaxed the dress code in the lower courts during summer season. Still, full sleeve black coat and neck band is followed in India as part of the legal dress code. It is time for India to change the colonial legal dress code and adopt a comfortable, convenient and culture-oriented dress code. 

Antiquity of the British dress code

The origin of the British legal dress code has remnants of Roman domination. In the Roman-British period, the British habit began to worthless with the rise of roman control through manners and language. The female wore attire one half-way to the thigh, with a loose sleeve, called British gwn, the origin of the word gown [1]. Queen’s Bench judges had variated five robes, and court dresses not worn in the chamber. In winter, criminal business judges wear a scarlet robe, a black scarf, girdle, scarlet casting hood similarly while dealing civil cases they wore a black robe with fur, black scarf, girdle and scarlet tippet. Attire for civil cases in summer is a violet robe made up of silk, with the black scarf, girdle, and scarlet tippet. Violet colour extracted from rare snail to make an imperial purple later disappeared in 1453. In criminal cases in summer, the scarlet robe is worn with silk. Chancery judges have a scarlet robe, ermine robe and black silk. Accessories including scarf, mantle, hood, black cap, tippet, gloves, knee cap, breeches and steel shoes worn during the ceremony only [2]. Through 1534, medieval judges have reformed the raw material with vibrant colour such as ermine, taffeta and the violet colour for winter whereas green for summer. The green robes bequeathed a different appearance in once identity, hence after 1534; the black and violet robes became frequently used attire. Until 1550, the state officers, self-seekers and who attend the court should wear a doublet, and close-fitted knee breeches made out of silk or wool material with dark and gloomy coloured with stiff golilla collar (white linen) became the Hispanic court attire [3]. 

Bygone dress code in courtesy culture

According to their place in society, in 1637 Privy Council stated lawyers to follow dress code. Therefore lawyers decked in the long gown in court and in public. During King Charles II mourning in 1685, robes with pleated shoulder and bell-shaped sleeves were used. This was followed during the mourning of Queen Mary II (1694) and thus black coat entrenched in British Judiciary. High strata judges wore flapped collar and different sleeve which was continued till now with minimum changes [4]. From 1680 lawyers and judges start wearing wigs. For 150 years, they powdered hair during 1822 Humphrey Ravenscroft invented legal wig made out of horse-hair. Still wig went out of fashion after French revolution in 1790 [5]. In Britain, the judges still wear wigs in the court halls. Gown and wigs gave a degree of anonymity to Judges and lawyers [6]. It was argued that the wig will help the them to hide their identities by the criminals outside the court hall. In a Judgement in 2007, Chief Justice, Baron Phillips stated that wigs would no longer be worn during civil or family cases and that judges need only one robe [7].

Indian legal dress code

Dress code is a representative of the profession, confident, discipline and a part of the personality. Colour symbolises passionate towards nation, belief and determination. However, the colour of black and white is mention to fight for justice; nevertheless symbolic representation blue colour is identified for freedom, justice, perseverance and patriotism [8]. This finds that black and white is only the lawyers’ workwear colour which creates a specific association between the professions and controls the mannerism in court etiquette. The classic and minimalistic culture of court attire in India follows the British dress-code with minor changes. The black coat indicates the profession, meticulousness; authority besides creates the sense of feeling towards Rights and Justice. Barristers were the first lawyer in India; thus white band act as the symbol of advocates also called as ‘Tablets of the Law’ or ‘Tablets of Stones’. The band represents Ten Commandments of the Christian belief, which symbolises to protect the laws of God. The lawyers of petitioners and respondent wear a similar dress code which signifies the law is blind and neutral to the rich and poor alike [9].

The Indian Advocates Act of 1961 and the current practice

In India, as per the Advocate Act 1961, it is mandatory to follow the British constitution and their guideline of using black and white dress code even after they left [10]. Indian rules under Section 49(1) (gg) of the Advocate Act 1961 and the Bar Council of India rules in 1975 [11], advocates of Supreme Court, High Court, and Subordinate Court, Tribunals or Authorities have to follow the British Robe, who ruled India for 150 years and left by 1947 [12]. The specific robe requires modification due to climatic condition, so during the end of 2001 Bar Council relaxed the black robe during summer (March 15 to June 15). The relaxation is given only for Subordinate Judiciaries. Still Supreme Court, High Court lacks in the acquaintance of relaxation. The dress code of Judge and layers were modified based on the climatic condition and to get rid of British colonial legacy [13]. The Advocate Act of 1961 also connotes that lawyer should wear black robe or coat, with white shirt and white neck band. Black is a representation of submission towards Justice. Still, it provokes that colour of Justice is Black? [14]. Researchers have identified that heavy black robes were used in a desert where heat will absorbed by outer layer of the fabric and will not transit to the skin. Where in India, robes create scorching because the colour black absorbs the heat also due to full sleeve [15]. Since the material used for robes where mostly polyester which lighter and emits the heat to penetrate into the skin. The cross-sectional view of polyester is round; thereby, it traps the moisture and does not breathe [16]. For the country with which exceed 40 degrees Celsius during summer should customise the dress code instead of coping with British systems and colours.


India is a tropical country with warm weather all over the year with an exception of few areas. The Legal dress code of India should be reformed according to the climate of India with a regional convenience. Black colour attracts more heat and it’s time to get away with the colour, but white can stay. Moreover, it is supposed to be gender-neutral and convenient for women lawyers. There is no question of leaving the identity of lawyers, but at the same time it should fit the Indian climate and of secular culture. It is not necessary at the same time that all over India the same dress code has to be followed. The weather in Kashmir is opposite to the weather in Kanyakumari same as the weather differences are there in the northeast India’s hilly region. Significant reforms should be made on wearing of neckband, black coat and black gown. Instead of neck band, India can follow similar kind of Japanese legal system of Badges. [17]. These attires create uncomfortable and inconvenient for the lawyers as well as the Judges. The act of wearing all those attires also consumes a considerable amount of time. Moreover, simplifying the legal dress code for the lawyers and judges will help in concentrating more on the cases and important issues.

* S. Vinusowndarya, Assistant Professorfrom VIT Fashion Institute of Techonology, Chennai; completed her B.Tech (Fashion Technology) from Bannariamman Institute of Technology and did Post Graduation (MFM) from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai.

Dr. S. Anandha Krishna Raj, Assistant Professor (Sr), completed his graduation in law from Chennai, at Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College affiliated to The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University and enrolled in New Delhi Bar Council and practised in Supreme Court of India. He has done his Master of Law from Kurukshetra University and M.A (Sociology) from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Later, he completed his M.Phil. and PhD in international law from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

South Asia

As Sri Lanka struggles with Chinese debt-trap, Maldives moves closer to the Quad



The Indian Ocean’s geopolitical currents have witnessed drastic transformation this year, particularly in the past three months, with India shedding the exclusive right of its sphere of influence over the Indian Ocean, by allowing the United States in its own backyard. Washington and New Delhi seems to have entered into what few analysts call a ‘soft alliance’.

Sri Lanka and Maldives are strategically located in the northern section of the Indian Ocean, and have long been historically, culturally, and geopolitically under India’s sphere of influence. But, things are beginning to change as Chinese debt-trap looms over these islands.

The Quad grouping, consisting of India, Japan, the United States and Australia, has demonstrated its collective military might in the maritime sphere of India with the recently concluded annual Malabar naval exercise. It also led to the emergence of new dynamics of cooperation in previously reticent areas, built upon confidence in each other’s abilities and consciousness of where it stands in the newly unravelling geopolitical equation.

India’s new strategic comfort with bringing in partners from the Quad partners lying external to the Indian Ocean Region, namely the US and Japan into its long-held exclusive sphere of influence signals a tilt in strategic imperatives for New Delhi in favour of the US that too in an evolving cold war-like situation involving Washington and Beijing with different set of countries rallying behind each side.

India has recently welcomed the US-Maldives Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in September, this year. The following month saw US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Male where he announced Washington’s intent to open an embassy soon.

Less than three months after the defence pact with Washington, Male signed a new agreement with Tokyo this month, for availing a Japanese grant of $7.6 million to strengthen the archipelago’s Coast Guard capacities, in a second major pact with a Quad member.

New Delhi’s newfound willingness to work with external actors in the Indian Ocean is a sign of strategic comfort stemming out from realist foreign policy considerations to expand its circle of friends and coalition partners in its own backyard against a common and more powerful adversary, Beijing, with which it also have decades-long tensions in the Himalayan frontiers.

Even though both these two countries succumbed to disproportionately superior Chinese economic might since the past one decade, it seems Maldives has somehow managed to come out of its dangerous level of dependency on China since Ibrahim Mohammed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party assumed presidency of the island nation two years back in November 2018.

The Sri Lankan economy went into a tailspin since the civil war ended in 2009. The country’s exchequer was badly in need of financial support to sustain itself. It was also the time when Beijing just began to project its military and economic power in its neighbourhood and beyond as the flamboyant 2008 Beijing Olympics concluded.

The island of Sri Lanka soon acquired new geoeconomic significance when President Xi Jinping launched the most ambitious infrastructure project of this century in 2013, the Belt and Road Infrastructure, connecting three continents with the Indian Ocean as its epicenter of vitality.

With BRI, a tangled web of debt-trap rapidly began to loom over Sri Lanka as Beijing pumped-in investments into the war-battered island with malicious intentions.

The story of handover of Hambantota port, strategically located in the southern tip of Sri Lankan coast, to China for a 99-year lease in 2017, and the Colombo Port City project being built with Chinese assistance are just examples of how economic leverage gained geopolitically advantageous positions for Beijing overlooking the Indian Ocean. These assets are going to play a significant role in the connectivity of BRI’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ aspect.

Chinese-led projects are built and managed by Chinese workers themselves as they do in any other part of the world, naturally bringing presence of Chinese personnel to the areas where it operates.

The BRI, however, enhances Sri Lanka’s significance in what theorists call the String of Pearls, wherein Beijing attempts to encircle India by a series of ports and maritime installations under its control in the Indian Ocean such as the overseas military base in Djibouti, Gwadar in Pakistan, and the ports in Bay of Bengal under Chinese influence hosted by either Bangladesh or Myanmar. Chinese submarine presence is also a new reality, particularly in areas surrounding the Malacca Straits.

All these factors naturally brought New Delhi closer to Washington to formulate a ‘collective strategy’ against the expansionist tendencies manifested by Chinese behaviour. At the same time, India has been taking proactive steps in its individual capacity to boost ties with other island and littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), like Mauritius and Seychelles where India’s listening posts to monitor sea-lanes also operate.

The Indian Navy has always been the first responder to any HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) situations in the IOR which earned significant soft power and respect for India in the countries of the region. This vision has been immortalized in India’s maritime doctrine for regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean, SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region), that was unveiled in 2015.

With the entry of the US, which already has its presence in the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia lying mid-way of the ocean, that too with India’s approval, and France in Reunion in the western Indian Ocean, the geostrategic picture of IOR is beginning to change.

Maldives stands as a good example of how to overcome Chinese dominating agenda by boosting cooperation among democracies. But, the Abdullah Yameen-era nightmare of Chinese debt burden is still far from over. In fact, Sri Lanka too is well aware of the Chinese trap from which it yearns to decouple itself. But, Colombo is left with limited options or alternatives to do so.

The renewed Indo-US strategic cooperation, if not translated into offering a viable solution to the debt-trap conundrum, Sri Lanka might irreversibly evolve into another extension of Beijing’s legs in the Indian Ocean threatening the sovereignty of democracies in the region.

Recent steps in the strategic realm are welcome, but the Indo-Pacific democracies, particularly India and the US, should cooperate with these two key island states more in the economic realm as well, if possible near to the extent of Beijing as a collective move.

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South Asia

The Dysfunctional Pakistan’s Legislature



The legislature of Pakistan has several problems and because of this very reason governments are unable to make any landmark laws for the state that can prove to be effective in resulting some socio-political or economic changes in the society. The noncooperation among the parties in the house is the major problem that leads no healthy debate. People have never seen the political parties having a healthy debate among the political parties on some key matters that need to address. Political parties prefer crosstalk on each other that mostly ends up on the dismal of legislature. Mostly in the house the opposition and the party in power never each on consensus on anything that shows their no seriousness towards the legislation.

 In my opinion the opposition of Pakistan perceives its role to be negative always. The opposition perceives as their duty to walk out from the house, make fun of their fellow colleagues, bringing our historical facts to propagate negativity about the agenda. This attitude results in no fruitful law-making.

The scenario of national assembly of Pakistan is that if the ruling party does not has two-third majority in the house they will be paralyzed as the opposition has imagines role of not supporting the government to pass laws and bills that can benefit their reputation among the public. In this game of interest the parties forget the importance of legislation and national interest rather they are more focused on protecting their own interests and interests of their political parties.

The tussle between the government and the opposition is endless that is negatively impacting the legislative system of Pakistan.

Another factor that weakens the legislative process of Pakistan is the issues within the upper house. This plays a vital role in enacting the laws without senate’s cooperation legislation cannot improve and strength.

 The sustained bitterness and confrontation with the government and opposition leads to no progress in the making of legislation and strengthening the rule of law. For example the PTI coalition passed the bills and introduced 8 ordinances in its first year of government.

The ten bills passed by national assembly faced a new challenge which was the Senate of Pakistan where PTI also does not hold the majority. Ten out of 4 bills sailed through Senate whereas 3 remained pending in Senate. Only 7 bills turned into acts in the first year of PTI government.

The lack of coordination and seriousness in the parliament is affecting the progress of Pakistan. Without rules and making of new legislation how can the country progress? In a democratic system the rule of law is one of the pillars for true democratic practices but unfortunately in Pakistan we only see leg-pulling and blame game between the institutions.  The lack of political consensus among the parties is another problem. On the other hand the formation of Standing Committees of national assembly is important for the functioning of the system. According to the Rules of Procedure of national assembly the members of Standing Committees has to be elected within 30 days after the elections of the leader of house but according to the data of PILDAT previous assembly managed to form these in 3 months instead of 30 days. This indicated lack of seriousness of the members.

The current government has only got the executive authority and not the legislative competence that makes them dysfunctional as they are dependent on the opposition and then Senate for passing of the legislation and making it a law.

Another factor that weakens the legislative system of Pakistan is the overactive judiciary and the intervention of the military in law making. Through this intervention the legacy of the military rule is still being kept alive. Most of the time the Supreme Court and the judiciary intervene in the legislation to serve their interest and weaken their opponents sitting in the government. The overactive judiciary encroaches the governance agenda, legislative advice etc. the legislative procedure in Pakistan is still developing its institutional identity.

The duty of the legislature is to respond to its public needs and also exercise oversight of the executive, but there is not engagement in the civil society and no research is being conducted on the public policy for better and effective policy making.

In the end it can be concluded that the system is also faulty but the attitude of the parliamentarians is more disappointing and discouraging. The whole system is unsuitable for a less educated population of Pakistan as most of the parliamentarians are unaware of policy-making and its importance for the state. The process is also complex and complicated as it has to go through several steps for making a bill a law.

Through this process, law-making on controversial issues is nearly impossible because in Pakistan people protect their interest instead of their state. Even if the government is serious for law-making the judiciary, military and bureaucracy will not allow the government to do its job. This is high time to adopt a new system in this country and draw lines for every institutions particularly judiciary that is the most rigid institutions and creates hurdles for every government by interrupting them.

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South Asia

Reinforcing the Role of the International Community in Resolving the Rohingya Crisis



A young Rohingya girl holds her brother outside a youth club in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees since August 2017. The United Nations defined Myanmar’s August 2017 atrocities to the Rohingyas as “Textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. On July 02, 2018, during his visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General noted that “I have no doubt that the Rohingya people have always been one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world, without any recognition of the most basic rights starting by the recognition of the right of citizenship by their own country – Myanmar”. Thus, the severity of the Rohingya crisis is well-recognized by the international community. This article focuses on the necessity of the international community’s role in facilitating a safe and sustainable Rohingya crisis solution.

The ironic story is that though it is already three years passed, no concrete action is manifested to facilitate the Rohingya refugee repatriation. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China applied veto power in the case of Rohingya refugee resolution, which made strong impediments to the repatriation process. Russia and China did this calculating their narrowly defined interest rather than humanity which is in fact, ironic for the world. Thus, the United Nations could not play a crucial role in facilitating the Rohingya refugee repatriation.

Bangladesh is one of the densely populated countries in the world. Though Bangladesh is a rising economic power, feeding more than 170 million people is not an easy task. Also, more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have added extra socio-economic pressures in the country. For Bangladesh’s continued growth, prosperity, and stability, there is no alternative to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar as early as possible. Since Myanmar committed ethnic cleansing to the Rohingyas, and the country is not interested in taking back the Rohingyas, only the international community including the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) can pressurize Myanmar to ensure a safe and sustainable repatriation.

Bangladesh strongly believes that the international community can play an essential role in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis permanently. For instance, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, offered five points proposal including the full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission, and the establishment of civilian monitored safe zone in the Rakhine State to the international community to resolve the issue. Similarly, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina offered a four points-proposal to resolve the Rohingya crisis highlighting the role of the international community. Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the international community must ensure that the root causes of the Rohingya problem area addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.

The good news is that the on November 19, 2020, the United Nations has adopted a resolution on “The Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” while Bangladesh seeks a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. The Resolution called for taking concrete actions by Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, i.e. granting them citizenship, ensuring the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their homes by creating a conducive environment. Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima notes that “As a country that hosts over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas, Bangladesh continues to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis, which lies in their safe and dignified return to Myanmar”.

Notably, Germany on behalf of the European Union and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the OIC co-tabled the Resolution which was sponsored by the 104 member states including the USA, Canada, and Australia. It is also a positive development that a total of 132 countries voted in favour of the Resolution while nine countries voted against and 31 countries abstained. It demonstrates that most of the countries in the world want a permanent, sustainable and peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. It also signifies that these countries care for the humanity while the nine countries who voted against the Resolution only care for their narrowly defined interest. The future generations will undoubtedly read and know the actions of those nine countries who do not care for humanity. Those nine countries need to know that despite several domestic challenges, Sheikh Hasina has shown kindness, humanitarian gesture and thus protected and sheltered those Rohingyas from killing by the Myanmar armies.

Notably, Bangladesh is one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of hosting refugees. This will remain as a humanitarian example in the world. One also needs to keep in mind that the socio-economic realities of Turkey (who is the top in hosting refugees), and Bangladesh is not the same. While the GDP (per capita) of Turkey is US$ 9043, Bangladesh’s GDP (per capita) is US$ 1856, the population density of Turkey is 108 per square kilometres, and Bangladesh’s population density is 1116 per square kilometres. Thus, considering the contexts, and socio-economic realities of Bangladesh, the international community needs to reinforce the Rohingya refugee repatriation process. Most importantly, the international community needs to execute the adopted Resolution as early as possible for the sake of humanity, for the sake of a just cause. The future world will certainly note the noble actions taken by the international community for such a just, and reasonable cause.

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