So, How to avoid legal jargon by using intelligible English?
There was a true anecdote in The Reader’s Digest that appeared years ago in its Indian edition. A gentleman in erstwhile Bombay (now Mumbai) purchased a piece of land at Vile Parle, one of the most elite suburbs of India’s financial capital. The land belonged to a famous actor, whose brother-in-law was an equally famous lawyer. He requested his lawyer brother-in-law to prepare the deal. Brother-in-law used the most recondite legal terminology!
When the deal, couched in the most weird legal language, was shown to the actor and his client, both had a cardiac arrest. The anecdote could be a bit exaggerated, but can’t be called apocryphal because that actor still gets vertigo when he remembers the legal language of the land papers.
The point is: Why on earth all legalities are still written and practiced in a kind of language that’s just unintelligible to all, including those who scribble them?
If a cursory look is given to the legal terminology and glossary used in a land/death/claim/public notice etc, one finds a uniform set pattern of intentionally difficult legal mumbo-jumbo.
The reason behind this universal legal predicament was succinctly given by the world’s foremost linguist Sir David Crystal: ‘ Legal language in all languages is twisted and turbid because the main purpose is to confound the other person who’s a potential customer/client and whose only recognised function or helplessness is to shell out as much amount as it could be possible by the Shylocks of all ages.’
Very apt words by Crystal. The primary intention to use such archaic jargon is to baffle the clients and make them kow-tow to the unnecessary demands of the person at the helm. Those who’re at the receiving end will continue to be flabbergasted by this type of frightening deals in which every word can have multiple meanings and imports.
The Sanskrit phrase, ‘Naro va, Kunjaro va’ or the Latin adage ‘Venitas Ex mose’ can be cited here which connote: This and that could also be true. For the very purpose of willing ambiguity, legalities are constructed and communicated all over the world and esp. in the colonized country like ours where English is still seen as the language of our white masters.
In 1993, jurists Palkiwala and Soli Sorabjee attempted to purge all legalities in India of their old courtroom lingo. They tried to establish a linguistic format, which’s user and client friendly and will be devoid of any sort of confusion.
Still, that arcane language is in vogue and it puts the fear of Satan in the hearts of those who’re supposed to read and sign the documents.
It’s time, we pared our legal terminology down to the linguistic acceptance of even those coming from the lowest denomination of the social stratum.
Just feel, imagine and empathize that a customer comes to a real estate construction specialists and service provider with a view to buying a home and he invests all that he has. And if he gets to read a deal/document in an interminable and clause-based terminology, will he feel relaxed and tension-free? We’re restricting him at the very outset by offering a deal that is expressed in a pinde-pinde matirbhinna style (As many men, as many interpretations).
This must be stopped forthwith and we at GRD Infraprojects Pvt. Ltd. have taken a serious initiative to present our legal papers, any service agreements in a language that can be understood by all and sundry. Hope, our intention will gather greater momentum in the words of Majrooh Sultanpuri, ‘ Main akela hi chala tha jaanib-e-manzil magar/Log aate gaye, kaarvaan banta gaya’ (I embarked upon a journey all by myself/People kept joining and a caravan emerged).
Let’s make it a movement, nay a MISSION, to simplify the language of legal documents for our esteemed patrons. This will help create a bond of mutual respect and trust.