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News: Recently, judges of India’s Supreme Court were unable to comprehend a judgement of Himachal Pradesh high court due to its dense legal language.
Why is there a use of such dense language in legal documents?
The justification given is that it is the only way to ensure that every possible consequence is adequately addressed.
Lawyers do this to prevent their clients’ suffering if things are left unsaid actually become a problem.
Similarly they are used in judgement to make them effectively counter any doubts that emerge.
What are the consequences of this?
In a world that has increasingly prioritized the democratization of access, this stops citizens to become a part of policymaking.
What is the situation in other countries?
A number of countries have enacted legislations that impose plain-language obligations on government functionaries, requiring them to communicate in words that can be easily understood.
In the US, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal government agencies to promote clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.
What is the way forward?
Apart from simplifying the language of our laws, government needs to follow some additional measures as well.
All government departments should be required to publish on their websites a complete list of all laws, rules and regulations that apply to those over whom they have authority, and only enforce those laws. This will prevent any misapplication of any fine on citizens.
Efforts should be made to consolidate all these regulations into a single, easy-to-understand code that presents a comprehensive snapshot of all applicable regulations. Reserve bank of India do this for its circulars.
Along with every law that is enforced, the government should publish an official note that describes, in plain language, what that law covers, who it applies to, and the obligations they are required to meet.
Government Should only collect new information from regulated entities to reduce the burden of compliance.
For some more suggestions,read here.
Source: This post is based on the article “Why we ought to replace legalese with plain language” published in Livemint on 9th Feb 2022.