While consumers of news from the Indian judiciary often wonder whether the country’s judges still suffer from a colonial hangover, as the English used in British legalese is now much simpler, a 2017 order by Justice Sureshwar Thakur and Ajay Mohan takes the cake. A division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices KM Joseph and PS Narasimha, hearing an appeal on the order, pulled up the Himachal Pradesh High Court on 17 January on account of the utterly incomprehensible language used in it. A part of the order read: “The piotal (pivotal?) besides fulcrum of the entire list engaging the parties at contest.”
And Justice Thakur was just warming up! He went on to say in the 2017 order: “The learned Single Judge, accepted the report of the Local Commissioner concerned, whereafter, it in consonance therewith, rendered a final decree of partition by metes and bound, of, the hitherto undivided suit property.”
Justice Thakur has a fascination for excessive use of the comma too, it seems. “The necessity of making an incisive circumspect evaluation, of, the testifications rendered by, aforesaid Dws, (i) is sparked by the plaintiffs/respondents herein, making (a) strenuous effort, to, bely (belie?) the recitals borne therein, (ii) also theirs making a fervent effort, for earmarking the factum, of it, being merely a device or a contrivance deployed by the defendant, to, in collusion with one Mohinder Pal, invent tenancy with respect to the commercial establishment concerned,” the high court order further read.
Justice Thakur, who is now a judge at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, had dictated the order in 2017. On three different occasions in the past, Supreme Court judges had objected to his bombastic legalese. They asked Justice Thakur for concision and straightforward English.
The bench of Justices Joseph and Narasimha disapproved of the language used in the said high court order and said it was “as incomprehensible as Latin”.
“How are we supposed to understand this? Is this Latin? We are unable to understand a word,” Justice Joseph, who led the bench, said.
Senior advocate Nidesh Gupta, appearing for the appellant, concurred that he could not understand a word of the order passed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court. He told the Supreme Court that from a reading of the trial court order and a few sections of the high court order, he could only figure out the nature of what appeared to him a property dispute.
The Supreme Court bench directed the parties to find an amicable settlement, while saying “we may have to send it back to the High Court for it to be re-written”, and adjourning the case till 24 January.