Madras High Court's first woman mace-bearer
Madras High Court's first woman mace-bearer

Reporter's diary: Mace-bearer, a blast from the colonial past

For the uninitiated, the official duty of a mace-bearer is to walk in front of the judges with a silver-coated club, to ensure the judge’s path is without obstruction

CHENNAI: Last week, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court got its first woman mace-bearer, few months after the principal seat at Madras employed one too. With due respect to the two women, this is no breaking of the proverbial glass ceiling, say jurists.

For the uninitiated, the official duty of a mace-bearer is to walk in front of the judges with a silver-coated club, to ensure the judge’s path is without obstruction. As if the mace and their odd-looking uniform — all whites with a red turban and waistband — is not enough for people to stand aside in bewilderment, they also make a hissing sound along the way. It’s no music to the ears.

Other than serving as an ego-boost for the judges, there’s no practical purpose for these government staff, who can be put to work for better jobs, claim jurists, who also add that this practice is not observed in most high courts in the country or even in the Supreme Court. Justice (Retd) K Chandru too had expressed his aversion at the practice.

In past, courts had come down heavily on the orderly system in TN Police (rightly so) and criticised politicians for irrational use of taxpayer money. Maybe, Milords can do some introspection too.

Heartening that the judges don’t wear the silly and weird-looking wigs like their predecessors from yore, citing traditions, though the catalyst for the shunning of ‘Raj era’ fashion is likely our tropical climate.

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