Wearing of Gown Optional in District Courts

Wearing of gown is optional in district courts

Wearing of advocates’ gown is not compulsory, but optional, in courts other than the Supreme Court or the High Courts, as per the Rules framed by the Bar Council of India (BCI Rules) and in force in the country.

The BCI Rules categorically states that wearing of Advocates’ gown shall be optional except when appearing in the supreme Court or in High Courts.

BCI prescribes dress code of advocates

Advocates need to wear dress prescribed by the Bar Council of India Rules (BCI Rules), framed under Section 49 (1) (gg) of the Advocate’s Act, 1961, while appearing before any court.

The above Section 49 (1) (gg) of the Advocates’ Act empowers the Bar council of India to make rules regarding “the form of dress or robes to be worn by advocates, having regard to the climatic conditions, appearing before any court or tribunal”. This sub-section was inserted by an amendment with effect from 31st January 1974 but the BCI Rules came into force only on 22nd April 1990.

The Chapter IV, Part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules prescribes the “Form of Dresses or robes to be worn by Advocates” which had been communicated to the State Bar Councils vide BCI circular No. 6/2002 dated 25.01.2002. The amendment was approved by Chief Justice of India on 12th January, 2001.

BCI’s Dress code of Advocates


(a) A black buttoned up coat, chapkan, achkan, black sherwani and white bands with Advocates’ Gowns.

(b) A black open breast coat. white shirt, white collar, stiff or soft, and white bands with Advocates’ Gowns.

In either case wear long trousers (white, black striped or grey) Dhoti excluding jeans.

Provided further that in courts other than the Supreme Court, High Courts, District Courts, Sessions Courts or City Civil Courts, a black tie may be worn instead of bands.


(a) Black full sleeve jacket or blouse, white collar stiff or soft, with white bands and Advocates’ Gowns. White blouse, with or without collar, with white bands and with a black open breast coat. Or

(b) Sarees or long skirts (white or black or any mellow or subdued colour without any print or design) or flare (white, black or black stripped or grey) or Punjabi dress Churidar Kurta or Salwar-Kurta with or without dupatta (white or black) or traditional dress with black coat and bands.

III. Wearing of Advocates’ gown shall be optional except when appearing in the Supreme Court or in High Courts.

IV. Except in Supreme Court and High Courts during summer wearing of black coat is not mandatory.

Use of black coat during summer

The Bar Council of India at its meeting dated 23rd/24th February 2002 considered the doubts raised relating to dress rules and after consideration, the following decision has been taken:

“In the change brought about in the dress rules, there appears to be some confusion in so far as the sub courts are concerned. For removal of any doubt it is clarified that so far as the courts other than Supreme Court and High Courts are concerned during summer while wearing black coat is not mandatory, the advocates may appear in a white shirt with black or striped or gray pant with black tie or band and collar”.

Mismatch between BCI Rules and HCK Rules

Prior to the framing of the BCI Rules, the dress code of advocates in Kerala was prescribed by the High Court of Kerala (HCK) as per the High Court Rules, framed under Section 34(1) of the Advocates Act 1961, regarding conditions of practice of advocates, which came into force on 23rd September 1969.

There is a mismatch between the dress code prescribed by the BCI Rules and the HCK Rules. The Rule 12 of the Kerala High Court Rules regarding condition of practice of advocates, framed in 1961, does not refer to any exemption from wearing black coat during summer. The Rule mandates that the wearing of black coat and gown is necessary while appearing in courts including district or below level courts.

But when the rule making power regarding the advocates’ dress has been given to the BCI and the BCI has formulated the rules on dress code, the High Court rules regarding the dress code may not have any force of law.

HCK dismissed a plea to change the dress code

In 2015, a Public Interest Petition was filed in Kerala High Court challenging the dress code of advocates prescribed by the Bar Council of India contending that the existing dress causes discomfort to the lawyers during the summer.

The HCK dismissed the petition but observed that providing a dress code for those practising in various courts can only be termed as a reasonable restriction and cannot be termed as arbitrary or unreasonable.

However, the court added that the dress worn by the Advocate clearly induces the seriousness of purpose and a sense of decorum which are highly necessary and conducive for the dispensation of justice”.

BCI formed a committee to decide new dress code

The Bar Council of India has constituted a five-member committee to decide on the issue of dress code for lawyers, because of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed before the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court in July 2021, questioning the existing dress code for lawyers.


  1. The Kerala High Court Act: Rules & Practice. Kochi, Kerala Law Times, 2010
  2. The Advocates Act, 1961
  3. Bar council of India Rules on dress code on Page 32
  4. Lawyer granted exemption from wearing black gown
  5. Kerala HC turns down plea for ‘Swadeshi’ dress code for lawyers
  6. Knowing Dress Code of Indian Lawyers