Indian legal documents

I am a resident of India. I have never been able to understand the language used in the legal documents here. Below is an example from an agreement to sell an apartment.

Herein after referred to as “THE FLAT PURCHASER/S” {Which expression shall unless it be repugnant to the context or meaning thereof shall mean and include his/her/their heirs, executors, administrators and assigners of the third part.

WHEREAS :
A) The then Collector of Bombay by the letter dated 19/12/1936 granted land in reclamation lease to one [Mr.] Bhika Bala Pawar in respect of the property out of Khajan bearing Survey No. 263 (Pt), corresponding to CTS No. 6/A/12, admeasuring 10 acres or thereabouts situate, lying and being at Village Malvani, within the limits of…

The sentence goes on and on. I had to stop somewhere.

I would like to know if it

  1. is the language used everywhere (in English speaking world) in such documents;
  2. was the language used in last-century Britain;
  3. is just wrong English.

Answer

This is so called “legalese”. A dialect used only in contracts, law documents and other court and law related sources. Not only it’s valid English, it’s written in such a way as to not leave any ambiguities, or room for interpretation, using phrases that don’t occur in everyday English, but have specific properties of describing places, moments, locations without leaving room for ambiguity. “Whereas”, “Herein” or “thereof” are quite uncommon in normal English, but abundant in legalese.

Think of it more like english-as-computer-language, than english usable for speaking; a trained lawyer can understand it fluently but it’s very difficult to read for normal people. Ambiguous wording could be challenged in court — arguments about that can drag into months until the opponent drops the case discouraged by the opposite side taking every entry open for interpretation the opposite way it was intended, so lawyers use so called “boilerplates”, document patterns used over and over, that were tested in court as leaving no doubts or ambiguities exploitable by opponents, and just fill in the plaintiff names, dates, objects of the cases, and submit that to the court or file away as legally binding contracts.

Answering:

  1. Yes, that’s used pretty much everywhere. People who use a different language in their legal documents open themselves to irrelevant, lengthy attacks when using these in court — a tactic to wear off the opponent by dragging the case indefinitely becomes viable.

  2. As far as I know, “legalese” evolves much slower than mainstream English, so yes, a very similar language was used 100 years ago. Not only that, lots of words that fell out of use of mainstream English still live through legalese, their contemporary counterparts being more ambiguous, or just through tradition.

  3. It’s correct, though horrible English. Grammar errors are an invitation for discussion “what the author intended”, “what the sentence should mean” and as such, avoided at all cost. Still, the style (e.g. repetition, run-on sentences) is completely disregarded in favor of adherence to the “boilerplate”.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Sameer , Answer Author : SF.

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