Inaugurating the joint conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocated proceedings in the Supreme and High Courts in the local language. He said that justice should be related to the people and should be done in the language of the people. In the same program, the Chief Justice of the country NV Raman also stressed on the Indianization of the Indian judicial system and called for action in the local language in the Supreme and High Courts. Earlier, at an event in Chennai, CJI Raman had said that the judicial process should not be as complicated as marriage mantras, which people cannot understand.
order in english
There are nine articles (343-351) related to the official language in the 17th part of the Indian Constitution. One of these, according to Article 348, all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court shall be in the English language. However, according to Article 348(2), the Governor of a State may, with the previous concurrence of the President, authorize the use of Hindi language or any other language used for the official purposes of that State in the proceedings of the High Court there. Provided that the judgments, decrees and orders of the Court shall still be in English. Using this power, some states of India like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have authorized Hindi for proceedings in their respective High Courts. In the country’s largest Allahabad High Court, people can comfortably argue in Hindi if the presiding judge understands this language.
About half the population of India is Hindi speaking and it is difficult for this population to understand the judicial process and the decisions of the courts. This would probably be the reason behind the Prime Minister’s advocacy of the local language. Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have already said that the use of Hindi will have to be increased to realize the dream of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, ‘One Country One Language’. In a tweet on Hindi Diwas (September 14) in 2019, Shah wrote, ‘India is a country of different languages and each language has its own importance. But it is very important to have one language of the whole country, which should become the identity of India in the world. Today, if any one language can do the work of tying the country in the thread of unity, then it is the most spoken Hindi language. Let K Pujya Bapu and Iron Man contribute in realizing the dream of Sardar Patel.
Recently, even while chairing the 37th Parliamentary Committee on Official Language, the Union Home Minister had advocated the development of Hindi as an alternative to English throughout the country. But Hindi is not officially the national language. It has the status of only official language. The language was debated in the meetings of the Constituent Assembly of India on 12, 13 and 14 September 1949. In these discussions were held on Hindi versus Bengali, Telugu, Sanskrit and Hindustani, Devanagari script versus Roman script, etc. and finally it was decided that Hindi written in Devanagari script would be the official language of India. The framers of the constitution also permitted official work in English for at least 15 years. He had expected that after 1965, the work in English would stop. But it didn’t happen. The Official Languages Act 1963 continued the English language for official purposes of the Union and for use in Parliament. The Act also made provision for the alternative use of Hindi or other official language in the judgments of the High Courts etc. That is why even today proceedings in the Supreme and High Courts take place in the foreign language English only.
Article 351 of the Constitution contains instructions for the development of Hindi language. It is written in the article that it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of Hindi language, to develop it so that it may become the medium of expression of all the elements of the composite culture of India and without interfering with its nature in Hindustani and in the Eighth Schedule Ensure its prosperity by assimilating forms, styles and terms used in other languages of specified India and, where necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, mainly from Sanskrit and by taking words from other languages.
But English dominates the Indian judicial system. Most judges and lawyers can write, read and speak Hindi, yet court proceedings are not conducted in Hindi. However, it has some practical difficulties. Sometimes the judges do not know the local language and the Chief Justice of the High Court always comes from outside. Senior judges are also from other states.
common language of the country
Regarding the language in the Constituent Assembly, Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla had said that Hindi should be declared the common language of the country. He advised ‘friends coming from the South’ to learn Hindi at the earliest or else they would be left behind. Keshav Chandra Sen, the famous social reformer of Bengal, had said in 1874 itself that the unity of India is not possible without a single language. Sen had advised Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj, to compose Satyarth Prakash in Hindi.
Today, when MPs from far flung areas of India learn Hindi and do official work in that language, why can’t it be implemented in the judiciary? The use of local languages in the courts will not only increase the confidence of the common citizens in the judicial system, they will also feel connected to it.
(The author is Regional Director, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Jammu)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.