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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 Section 377 is repealed considering modern development.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.

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South Asia

The World Biggest COVID-19 Crisis: Failure of India’s Vaccine Diplomacy



Health workers pose with a vial of COVID-19 vaccine after receiving their shots at a hospital in India. UNICEF/Vinay Panjwani

As over 100 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated and the world’s daily count of new cases is falling, India faces healthcare system collapse as a second coronavirus wave is devastating. In accordance with the recent statistics of the WHO, in the past week approximately 2 million new confirmed cases were reported worldwide – almost half were from India. Interestingly, India is one of the main producers and exporters of coronavirus vaccines in the world and since mid-January, the federal government has approved a British-made Oxford-AstraZeneca, and a locally developed– a national pride Covaxin (both are being produced in India) for the massive immunization drive that has set the ambitious goal of fully immunizing 300 million people, particularly healthcare workers by the end of summer. Meanwhile, India had initially been planning to set the world record for mass vaccination but they ended up with the world record coronavirus cases, surpassing 400.000 daily COVID-19 cases for the first time.

The development and deployment of an effective and safe vaccine against the coronavirus was a key pillar in the authority’s current strategy to break down the chain of transmission. However, despite a promising start of a vaccination campaign at the beginning of this year, one of the largest immunization programs across the globe, it turns out there is not a sufficient amount of vaccine supplies in a number of states across the country. As cases continue to surge, many across the country have rushed to register for shots but most states are running out of doses and a large number of vaccination centers across India turned away people due to chronic shortages or complete lack of availability of jabs. While India is one of the major producers of COVID-19 vaccines with a monthly capacity of 70 million doses, now forced to import jabs, as local manufacturing facilities are facing challenges to meet growing demand. As India’s expansion of its immunization campaign has been failing badly, it makes a disastrous situation even worse. On the other hand, the current devastation leads to a depression in global vaccine supply and consequently, it hits the low and middle-income countries, as they rely on the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

The second devastating wave was hitting the country since mid-April and apparently, India’s poorly funded public healthcare system is not capable enough to overcome the world’s largest surge in COVID cases. Health facilities overwhelmed as infection rates explode; therefore, many hospitals in the large cities already suspended admitting even the critically ill coronavirus patients as all beds were full and medical equipment, particularly oxygen concentrators, ICU beds, test kits, PPEs and ventilators in short supply, while corpses pile up at morgues and crematoriums. As a death toll rises sharply, additional crematoriums are being built in order to deal with the grim situation, especially in the hardest-hit cities and states. Furthermore, in the midst of a big surge Indian government also launched a vaccination drive for anyone over the age of 18 starting 1st of May.  Ironically, along with China and Russia, India was a country that had begun exporting home-grownCOVID-19 vaccine doses to foreign countries, but only less than 3% of its population has been fully vaccinated so far. During a global pandemic, thanks to its massive production capacity, India actively donated locally produced Coronavirus vaccines to the Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and African low and middle-income nations under the “Vaccine Friendship” program. The initiative was launched in early 2021 and it sought to promote cooperation and cement ties by distributing a dozen of jabs through the Vaccine Diplomacy. In reality, in the battle to gain political influence across the developing world, India shipped millions of doses to poorer countries before managing to secure an adequate amount of vaccines for its own people.

India’s infections keep surging due to the unavailability of medical resources and thus the crisis also affecting the global vaccine and medical supply chains, as over 40 countries, including Russia, European Union, China and the United States and numerous international charities are proactively providing a range of humanitarian aid and emergency assistance.

Many events marking religious festivals and cultural events across the world have been banned because of Coronavirus; on the contrary, despite the high risks of infection several crowded religious festivals and gatherings have been taking place in India’s various holy sites and places of worship with a thousand of unmasked pilgrims and devotees. Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s total23campaign rallies that brought tens of thousands of incautious supporters together caused the spike in coronavirus cases. Hence, the federal government acted reluctantly to impose major restrictions for containing the virus by relying on local authorities to take action.

Indeed, India is the third country with over130 million doses administrated in the world, the highest figure just behind the United States and China respectively, but even the large-scale vaccination process was insufficient to prevent the second wave for a population of more than 1.3 billion people. Although international flights are being suspended to and from India by many governments, a more transmissible India COVID variant, formally known as B.1.617has already been detected in multiple countries and territories worldwide. India’s COVID -19 crisis warns that the risk of infection remains high and many countries could face a strong resurgence of COVID-19similar to India. Health experts concern that a new and more contagious strain spreads more easily and it could even evade vaccines. The current outbreak shows that every country remains vulnerable and could find itself in dire straits unless the adaptation and implementation of strict anti-pandemic measures and policies. However, strengthening the public health system, enhancing safety protocols and sanitary measures, ensuring transparency and accountability, and initiating a successful immunization campaign will be seemingly crucial to combat the pandemic, otherwise, a similar crisis could soon become a common tragedy for the entire world in the foreseeable future.

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South Asia

Pakistan desires dialogue and cooperation with the EU



Renew Europe, a liberal, pro-European political group of the European Parliament, presented a resolution and was passed by the EU by an overwhelming majority of 681 votes against six only. Extremist, racist groups influence the EU. No doubt, the whole world is suffering from intolerance and extremism. There are many racist movements in America and Europe too.

Pakistan being an open and democratic country, enjoys total freedom of expression to its citizen. There must be diverse voices within Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan is a parliamentary system. All matters are discussed in the parliament, which is responsible for building consensus on all crucial issues and addressing the concerns of all groups, factions, parties, minorities, etc.

Historically, Pakistan was a very tolerant and peace-loving, balanced society, but during the 1980s war in Afghanistan, Pakistan was radicalized by design. The western world deliberately promoted intolerance, religious extremist, and terrorism. Almost all intelligence agencies of the leading Western World were engaged in Pakistan for arming, training, and inspiring youth for Jihad in Afghanistan. These international intelligence agencies collected radical individuals from all over the world and concentrated them in Pakistan to launch Jihad in Afghanistan; Many terrorist organizations were created by them in the whole Muslim world, was either, Mujahideen, Taliban, Daesh, Al-Qaida, or ISIS, Boko-Haram, or any other militant group, was the creation of Western World and used for particular objectives. After achieving their goals, they banned them and kept their distance from them. And she was now blaming them for terrorism, Unfortunate!

 Pakistan was a close ally of the US, NATO, and Europe (Western World), an essential front-line state in the Afghan war, and a non-NATO ally in the war on terror.  Pakistan suffered extremism, intolerance, terrorism, gun culture, and drug culture, promoted by the Western world. Pakistan is a victim state. 

The visionary leadership in Pakistan is very much clear about the situation and determined to establish the rit of government while staying within the democratic values of our system. The recent unrest in Pakistan was a domestic issue, just like in many parts of Europe and America. The incident of Capitol Hill, Killing of Gorge Floyd, and followed continued protests and demonstrations in America; agitations, demonstrations in many parts of Europe are witnessed often, it is believed that all governments are trying to resolve their domestic issues within their Constitution. There was no external pressure on either of these governments. It is expected that let Pakistan overcome its domestic crisis, and the capable Government of PM Imran Khan has already resolved the issue amicably.

Under this scenario, the adoption of a resolution by the EU is not appreciated and, in fact, has hurt the feeling of ordinary Pakistani. It reflects the bias of EU only. A resolution presented by the extremist group should not be the voice of the whole EU. Trust, there must be many reasonable, moderate, and unbiased members in the  EU parliament who think logically and rationally. The adoption of such a resolution is totally irrational, irresponsible, and against the globalization spirit.

While Pakistan is engaged to clear the mess created by Western World and almost near to succeed entirely, there is a dire need for International support, and coercion may not be fruitful at this critical moment. It is hoped that the EU may re-consider the resolution and revert it immediately. All peace-loving parliamentarians in the EU are appealed to think rationally and logically to promote international cooperation and understanding to defeat intolerance, bais, extremist, terrorism and turn the whole world into a better place to live and gift our next generation peace, stability, harmony, and prosperity.

However, Islamophobia is an international phenomenon in recent decades all over the Western World. The Prime Minister of Pakistan mentioned it in his speech at the United Nations General assembly (UNGA) last year. A similar resolution was also passed in the OIC. The whole Muslim World is worried and unhappy over blasphemy in the few western countries. There were protests and demonstrations by Muslims all over the world, with various intensities. At the same time, Muslims respect other religions and deserve to reciprocate respect for Islam.

The federal government in Pakistan has decided to address the European Parliament’s reservations after the body had called for an appraisal of Pakistan’s GSP Plus status. The development came after Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting involving senior ministers of the cabinet. It was called in response to a resolution approved by the European Parliament a few days ago, calling for an assessment of Pakistan’s GSP Plus status. The premier stressed the government would not compromise on the laws about the finality of the Prophethood. The participants, during the meeting, decided to address the reservations of the European Union. It was also unanimously agreed that the protection of minorities in the country would be ensured. The participants believed the GSP Plus trade agreement has nothing to with blasphemy laws.

In response to the European Parliament’s resolution, the Foreign Office had expressed disappointment over the development.”The discourse in the European Parliament reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan – and the wider Muslim world. The unwarranted commentary about Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws are regrettable,” read a statement by the FO.

“Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media, and independent judiciary, which remains fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination,” the Foreign Office had added.

The FO had emphasized that Pakistan is proud of its minorities who enjoy equal rights and complete protection of fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution. Judicial and administrative mechanisms and remedies are in place to guard against any human rights violations.

“Pakistan has played an active role in promoting freedom of religion or belief, tolerance, and inter-faith harmony. At a time of rising Islamophobia and populism, the international community must exhibit a common resolve to fight xenophobia, intolerance, and incitement to violence based on religion or belief and work together to strengthen peaceful co-existence.”

There exist multiple mechanisms in place between Pakistan and the EU to discuss the all-inclusive spectrum of bilateral relations, including a devoted Dialogue on Democracy, Rule of Law, Governance, and Human Rights. Pakistan would continue to remain definitely engaged with the EU on all issues of mutual interest. Pakistan believes in dialogue under the charter of the UN. Pakistan desires an early dialogue and settlement of all differences amicably. Any unilateral decision may not be fruitful to either side. It is time to strengthen our ties and mutual support. Only by collective efforts may we turn this universe into a better place to live for humankind. Pakistan assures its best possible cooperation at all times and awaits reciprocity from the EU.

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South Asia

Religion Freedom Index of Bangladesh: Current Developments and Government Responses



Pope Francis joins in prayers led by a Rohingya Muslim man at an inter-religious conference at St Mary’s Cathedral in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on December 1, 2017. Mohammad Ponir Hossain / Reuters

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently published its annual Religious Freedom in the World 2021 Report (RFR) that scrutinizes the situation for all major religion groups in 196 countries across the world. The report found that, over the past two years, oppression against susceptible faith communities has augmented in all but one of the 26 countries listed in the survey’s worst (‘red’) category. Bangladesh is that only country whose position on the red list of religious persecution remains unchanged.

The annual report says that religious freedom is being undermined in one out of every three countries in the world which composed two-thirds of the world population. 62 countries out of a total of 196 face severe violations of religious freedom. The situation of minorities in India and Pakistan is deteriorating further. The situation in China and Myanmar is the worst. According to the report, the situation is worse in 95 percent of the 26 countries where persecution is taking place. Nine new countries have been included in this list- seven from Africa and two from Asia.

The report on Bangladesh says that the torture of minorities has not increased in recent years but the influence of Islamic groups is increasing in the politics of Bangladesh. However, the government has been successful in subdue the influence and maintaining religious freedom. For instance, after the rise of Islam-fabric politicization leading by “Hefazat-e-Islam”, the top leaders and at least 375 people nabbed for their recent violent activities. The strict position of law enforcement agencies against the rampage of the group denotes the zero-tolerance of Bangladesh government in ensuring religious freedom and upholding “secularism” which is one of the state principals of its constitution. The argument can be evident with the recent report of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) titled, “Bangladesh and Pakistan: acting against extremism versus making a show of acting against extremism”. Highlighting the activities of the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam (HIB) in Bangladesh and the radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) in Pakistan, the report comments that Bangladesh government has been making “noticeable progress in dealing with the radical Islamist HIB whereas Pakistan has floundered dramatically in its inconsistent, ill-considered and ill-implemented attempts to pacify the TLP”. Besides, the initiatives of the Bangladesh government in protecting the minority rights are so much praiseworthy.

According to the 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom of US Department of State, to advocate the minority rights and to foster religious tolerance, Bangladesh government has taken a number of initiatives such as-

•Providing guidance to imams throughout the country to prevent militancy and monitoring mosques for “provocative messaging”.

•Deploying law enforcement personnel at religious sites, festivals, and events considering potential violence. The Economic Times reported that 30,000 and 31,272Durga Pujas were organized across the country in 2017 and 2018 respectively without any security issue.

•Zero-tolerance to Islamic militancy. For instance, Special Tribunal convicted and sentenced to death seven of eight defendants who were accused in the 2016 killings of 22 mostly non-Muslim individuals at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.

•Offering stipends to students from the minority groups in the primary and secondary level; and

•Providing funds for minority rituals and social activities.

Most importantly, Bangladesh ensures a level playing field in the employment sectors and a viable people-to-people contact. ‘Dhormo Jaar Jaar, Utsob Shobar,’ (Religion for own, but festivals for all” is a testimony of its secular values and communal harmony. The ACN report itself showed, in Bangladesh, where due to fear of infection, minority faith groups were incapable of offering the last rites to family members, an Islamic charity buried not only Muslim but also Hindu and Christian victims of COVID-19. Besides, reliefs were equally provided to every sector of the society regardless of their race or religion.

To conclude, Bangladesh always believes in fraternity beyond ethno-religious affiliations and practiced secularism in daily life throughout the history. But at present, due to the rise of right-wing populist politics both at regional and global level and rise of fundamentalism, religious harmony in Bangladesh is also affected. However, comparatively, Bangladesh is doing better than many regional states and the country is destined to overcome the challenges in near future due to the pro-active role of the government in this regard.

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