What are the Legal Aspects of Business Communication in India?
In the recent years, new enactments such as the Right to Information Act, judgments by the courts of law, initiatives in the area of corporate governance, citizens, charters and voluntary codes of conduct adopted by business organizations have all resulted in greater transparency and access to books, records, documents and internal communication relating to business organizations. Secrecy of the past has given way to transparency and accessibility.
It is quite likely that some internal documents and communication conveying managerial decision or opinion or factual position or subjective assessment may have to be produced in an external, judicial or quasi-judicial forum.
This casts an additional responsibility on people associated with business organizations: that of ensuring that every internal and external communication passes the basic requirement of legal appropriateness.
Any internal document or a recorded communication like a memo, circular, letter, report or an appraisal, minutes of a meeting, speech or address recorded in any form such as printed, typed, and handwritten on paper, telephone conversation, film, compact disc or pen drive or even e-mail message may be called for as evidence or exhibit in a legal case.
Every good business communicator, therefore, should be conscious of the legal liability, if any, which may arise from his or her speech or writing or conversation. When people working in business organizations disregard certain fundamental principles and acts involving legal implications, they may produce legal liability not only for themselves, but also for their organizations.
While some awareness of the legal implications of business communication is no doubt essential, it does not, however, mean that every business communicator should necessarily study law or possess a legal background.
What is necessary is a certain responsible behaviour and being aware of what is reasonable and appropriate. Negative or hurtful expressions, overtly subjective comments, terms conveying unintended comments or liability and such other acts with legal implications will have to be avoided.
Over the years, legal terms and expressions have also become an integral part of business communication. Apart from such legal terms, Latin phrases that are commonly used in courts of law are also often used. Some legal terms and phrases that are used in business writing include hereto, whereas, prima facie, ipso facto, de novo, ab initio and to be determined (TBD).
Such legal terms and phrases are appropriate in a legal context. Business organizations often deal with legal documents like legal notices, warranties, agreements, memoranda and guarantees in which legal terms have to be used.
In their absence, it may not be possible to convey the message with the same force and intensity at the same time, where there is no legal context, such legal terms and phrases are best avoided. Not everybody understands such legal expressions. Moreover, legal terms tend to make the writing dull and formal.
As stated earlier, legal writing has made inroads into business writing. Business organizations that form a part of banking, insurance, leasing, mutual funds and real estate have to deal with legal documents and have to use legal phrases in their writing.
Depending upon their requirements, such organizations create their own legal departments and specialized legal staff. All documents that have substantial legal implications are prepared or vetted by such qualified persons.
Business writing that does not otherwise involve such legal writing is well attended to by all others who develop their own writing and communication skills.