Take 5 | Advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi: Lawyers’ coats can’t be worn in summers. If we are drenched in sweat, how will we work?

The Supreme Court on July 25 refused to entertain a petition seeking exemption for lawyers in the apex court and High Courts from wearing the mandatory black coat during summer months. Advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi had approached the apex court seeking amendment in the rules by the Bar Council of India

① Why are you seeking an exemption from wearing coats in summers?

India is a diverse country. While in one place you will be covered in a blanket, at another place, at the same time, it would be difficult for you to even wear a shirt. In Delhi, the cold weather is limited to two-three months, and it becomes difficult to wear coats during the rest of the year.

② What does the law say about the uniform to be worn by advocates?

Section 49 1 (gg) of the Advocates Act says the dress code will be in accordance with climatic conditions, and grants BCI the power to make rules in this regard. (BCI rules require advocates to wear ‘sober and dignified dress —a black coat, a white shirt and white bands with gowns for men. For summer months, the Delhi High Court in February dispensed with the requirement for its advocates to wear gowns.)

③ What could be an alternative to the existing uniform?

The apex court has asked us to approach the BCI and orally said that we can come back in case no decision is taken by the statutory body. We are preparing an alternative and researching what colours would be appropriate in the summer season. In the next 10 days, we will be able to present our suggestions in public. Everyone is supporting this.

④ Are you against the idea of a uniform for lawyers?

No, uniforms are necessary. The uniform should be such that it makes our work easy and not create impediments instead. If we remain drenched in sweat, how will we work? While we are arguing in court, we are troubled by itching too. I once suffered an infection and had to consult a doctor. Won’t that affect our concentration? In courts situated in rural areas, there are no fans, no electricity and lawyers get drenched in sweat even if they wear only a shirt. Coats can’t be worn in summers; uniforms should be in accordance with climatic conditions.

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⑤ What steps are you taking now?

Our representation is ready. We will now approach the BCI and are hopeful of a favourable decision.

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