“The matter regarding hearing in Hindi in the Supreme Court has again started a debate for the language.”
- Why in News
- What does the Constitution of India say about Hindi?
- What is the official language of the Supreme Court?
- Who made the English Language the official Language for Supreme Court proceedings?
- Constitutional provisions related to Language
- What will be the advantages of using the Hindi language?
- Hindi Our National Language: Myth Vs. Reality
- The disadvantages that we may face if we eliminate the English Language are as follows
- Regional Languages
- Other Country's languages
Our judicial system is the legacy of the colonial era; one cannot shift this to Hindi. At the top of the pyramid, the requirement is different. The Supreme Court not only deals with north Indian states but also addresses cases from other parts of the Country. Unless the Government of India comes up with a solution about regional languages enshrined in the Constitution and adequately communicated to the commoner, law, and justice will not reach the last person or percolate down to society.
The English Language has taken on an indispensable and irreplaceable position in the Country and has become a world language. The decisions of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of India are read out and sometimes quoted before the High Courts and Supreme Courts of other countries of the world.
India has been a multilingual country for thousands of years. Every region and every State have a different language, and every Language has a considerable influence in that particular region. The vastness and grandeur of India are well known all over the world. India has more than 1.39 billion people with regional, religious, cultural, caste, creed, and linguistic diversity. Suppose the Supreme Court provides proceedings in the Hindi language. In that case, it will in the future become a kind of artificial language-based classification between courts and legal professionals based on their place of practice, and this is not a good sign for the system.
Language in India has always been a sentimental issue. One of the most controversial and political issues in Indian politics is related to language problems. The introduction of individual official languages of the states in 25 different High Courts has a considerable impact, which will have severe implications for the Indian judicial system. The states may well deconstruct a hitherto unified and well-structured legal system within the Country in the game of linguistic unity. Language is not just a medium of thought and expression, but it is an integral part of the decision-making process for high-level judges.
One can very well understand the desire of the hero of Hindi to replace English with Hindi entirely because the majority speaks Hindi of the people in the Country. However, many people of India, especially in the southern and eastern parts, would not be in favor of the original drafting of the Acts in Hindi.
An example of the difficulty of not using English came up before the Supreme Court in Madhu Limaye Vs. Veda Murthy. One of the intervening parties insisted on a personal argument before the Supreme Court, and that too in Hindi, which the opposing counsel opposed as they could not understand it. The petitioner refused to argue in English, present written arguments in English, and even refused to let his lawyer speak before the Court. The Supreme Court, citing Article 348, held that the Court's Language was English and struck down its intervention.
Thus, if English is to be given importance in the higher judiciary, would it be appropriate to exclude it altogether in some courts? There is merit in the argument that the plaintiff better understands the proceedings at the district court level in their Language. But now we talk about the Supreme Court. Will it be appropriate for those people who know only Hindi or only English or any other language? So this doesn’t seem right, and it will violate fundamental rights because Hindi cannot work when we talk about pan-India. The Language in south India is different from north India, and so is the case in the east and west. In such a situation, implementing Hindi throughout the nation is impossible. Here, English is the Common Language.
When the Country celebrates Hindi Divas, one may ask about the position regarding Hindi as a medium of communication in the judiciary. Is it right to mandate Hindi as a uniform language in all courts of India? Is it practical, feasible, or even desirable in a country having more than 20 languages? Today English cannot be considered a foreign language only. English is used for National as well as international communication. The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution recognizes 22 different languages. The Government of India came up with a solution about regional languages enshrined in the Constitution and adequately communicated to the commoner that law and justice will not reach the last person or percolate down to society. The Constitution also recognizes the importance of English in the higher judiciary.
Why in News:
Patna High Court lawyer Barmahdev Prasad has moved to the Supreme Court on January 21, 2022, to file the petition. Seeing the petition written in Hindi, the Registrar's Office of the Supreme Court expressed displeasure and asked to file a translation of its petition in Hindi. When Prasad did not accept to do so, the registrar said that the petition could not be filed in Hindi due to the obligation of Article 348 of the Constitution. Then Prasad showed them 300, 351, and Fundamental Rights 13 and 19, which provide for non-discrimination against Hindi. The petition written in Hindi had to be accepted by the Supreme Court administration. Eventually, his PIL was taken, and the Supreme Court will hear it in Hindi next month.
In such a situation, if the Supreme Court is hearing in Hindi now, then people of other states will also demand action in their regional hearings. Now the problem will come when the judge of the Supreme Court does not have the Language of that Language, then how will he be able to deliver justice. The channels of communication between the judiciary of different states will be broken. In that case, the unified framework of the Country's judicial system would not be the only thing that could fall on the altar of narrow regional politics and linguistic conservatism. Apart from this, the unity and integrity of the country are bound to be affected due to linguistic fundamentalists.
What does the Constitution of India say about Hindi?
- The plaintiff has a fundamental right to understand and participate in the proceedings of the Court as it arguably provides a bundle of rights under Article 19 and Article 21.
- The plaintiff has the right to speak before the Magistrate in a language they understand. Similarly, the "right to justice" has also been recognized under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Therefore, the Constitution has provided the right of justice to the plaintiff, which further includes that he will have the right to understand the entire proceeding and the judgment given.
What is the official language of the Supreme Court?
- There is no mention of the Supreme Court in the Official Languages Act; no proceedings occur in any language other than English. All arguments in the Supreme Court are in English. The reason for this is easy to understand.
- Just as the cases of the whole Country come to the Supreme Court, which are of different languages, similarly, the judges and lawyers of the Supreme Court also come from all parts of India. In that situation, judges can hardly be expected to read documents in other languages and hear arguments in languages they are unfamiliar with. All the decisions of the Supreme Court are also given in English.
Who made the English Language the official Language for Supreme Court proceedings?
- The Language used in courts in India saw a transition during the Mughal period with changes from Urdu to Persian and Persian scripts, which continued in subordinate courts even during British rule. The British government introduced a codified law system in India with English as the official language. After independence, Article 343 of the Constitution of India provided that the Official Language of the Union would be Hindi in the Devanagari script.
Constitutional provisions related to Language:
- Part XVII of the Constitution of India deals with official languages in Articles 343 to 351.
- Article 348(1)(a) states that unless Parliament by law otherwise provides, all proceedings before the Supreme Court and every High Court shall be conducted in English.
- Article 348(2) also provides that notwithstanding the provisions of Article 348(1), the Governor of a State may, with the previous concurrence of the President, speak in a foreign language or proceedings authorizing the use of the Hindi language.
- Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963. The State Governor to authorize the use of Hindi, the Official Language of the State, other than English, for any judgment, decree, or order passed by the High Court, with the prior consent of the President (Section 7). It further provides that a translation shall accompany any judgment, decree, or order given in any such language in English.
- After its independence, the Government of India decided to implement Hindi as the sole official language of independent India. Hindi belonged to the lineage of the Aryan languages. Those who spoke other languages, especially the Dravidian people, saw an attempt to eradicate their own language cultures in this judgment. But the Indian Constitution had declared that English could be used for official purposes. The proceedings of the Supreme Court must be delivered in English.
Hindi Our National Language: Myth Vs. Reality
- The Constitution has never declared Hindi as the national Language; instead, in 1950, it recognized Hindi in Devanagari script as the Official Language of the Union along with English under Article 343.
- In 2010, the Gujarat High Court observed that although most people in India have accepted Hindi as the national language, there is nothing on record to suggest any reason to declare Hindi as the Country's national Language.
- Generally speaking, most people in India have accepted Hindi as the national language, and many speak Hindi and write in the Devanagari script. Still, nothing on record suggests that No provision has been made or order has been issued to declare Hindi a country's national language.
The disadvantages that we may face if we eliminate the English Language are as follows:
Learn many languages:
- Legal Language is not accessible. It takes time to learn and understand the language's words, meanings, and variations. Knowing them in two languages and switching between them is a challenging task.
- Having trained two generations of lawyers in legal transactions in Hindi, if the Supreme Court starts the proceeding in Hindi, then it be suicidal to change the Language.
- Furthermore, the Supreme Court consists of judges from different states who may not know Hindi; it would be impossible to conduct proceedings in Hindi. Changing the regional Language may not be easy as practically every State has adopted it under Article 345 of the Constitution.
- Presently, the judicial system in India is well developed, integrated, and uniform throughout the Country. If the English Language is abolished, there will be no uniformity among all the states maintaining the integrity of the Country.
- The Language in which communication occurs between different states or between the central government and a state or individual is usually English.
- All the remaining law books in various High Courts, including all law journals, are in the English Language, and the translation of those books will cost crores of rupees. When we would not have enough money to meet the immediate needs of the poor people, spending a large sum to satisfy some linguistic linguists would be a waste of public funds.
- A multilingual legal system is likely to increase the cost of litigation, only because of the vast amount of translation work involved, among other difficulties.
- Nevertheless, the nature of economic and industrial development in India with the aid of foreign investment, the promotion of local languages, and the abolition of English in the courts will again have a discouraging effect on investors. Because of international agreements, courts must primarily consider and interpret international laws in English.
- Lawyers and judges benefit from easy access to similar laws and views of other High Courts on other matters of law and the Constitution.
- Most of the laws, statutes, and judgments are in English. First, the translation must be complete and accurate. Secondly, different versions in different languages will lead to ambiguous interpretations of legal provisions. In such cases, multilingualism will become part of the problem rather than the solution.
- At present, judges of one High Court are transferred seamlessly to other High Courts. At present, judges of one High Court are transferred seamlessly to other High Courts. It has provided a unified structure to the Indian judicial system.
- In such a situation, the hearing of cases will take more time due to translation, interpretation, and understanding of the local Language.
- Various legal proverbs are Latin and may not have corresponding words in Indian languages. Local languages are further devoid of legal terminology, and limited written material such as dictionaries and glossaries are available.
- It has provided a unified structure to the Indian judicial system. The hallmark of any strong legal system is that the law should be definite, precise, and predictable, and we have almost achieved this in India.
- To a large extent, we are indebted to the English Language, which has served as a link language for India, where we have about two dozen official state languages.
- English is the established Language in the legal community. English is a more acceptable language, and it has been used in the higher judiciary for more than 150 years.
- Introducing Hindi will bring an additional burden on the Supreme Court. It will be more detrimental to the system than beneficial. Some may perceive English as colonial. But this change will increase the burden on the judiciary. We already have a massive backlog of cases, a shortage of judges, and many other issues that need to be addressed more urgently.
- Under the Indian system, the original literature is based primarily on English and American textbooks and case laws. However, 80 percent of the judges and advocates of the Supreme Court are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English. Therefore, it will become difficult for the advocates to argue in Hindi.
- Changing the Court's Language to the local Language will hamper the practice of lawyers as most of the lawyers are trained to work and argue in English.
- In addition, clients who may not be familiar with the local dialect will be hesitant to rely on lawyers. Furthermore, lawyers who are not fluent in the local languages of other states will hesitate to take that foot and be confined to their local courts and State only.
Not easy to practice in different Language:
- Many young lawyers who want to appear for judicial service examinations, and have only English, will be at a disadvantage from appearing for examinations outside their home states. They can pass the examination of another state.
- Still, even if appointed, they will not be able to discharge their duty unless they know the local language of that particular State. This would discourage many people from applying for judicial service positions outside their State, thereby depriving the other form of the best possible talent.
- The Hindi language is the largest spoken language (43.63% of people in India).
- The Constituent Assembly of India adopted Hindi, written in Devanagari script, as the Country's official Language and English under Article 343(1) on September 14, 1949.
- Those framing the Constitution had an essential question before them regarding the future role of regional languages. He believed that these regional languages should be upgraded and developed so that languages can play a meaningful role in establishing the Country's future.
- Articles 350 (A) and 350 (B) were inserted by the Constitution Amendment Act 1956 to ensure the protection of language minorities.
- To achieve these objectives, the Constitution provides for 22 regional languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, which include Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. These languages shall be represented in an Official Language Commission appointed under Article 344(1).
- 90 percent of the advocates of the High Court of Southern states cannot do any legal work in Hindi. There is not a single stenographer available in the High Courts of Southern states in many states who can remove the dictation in Hindi and transcribe them into manuscripts.
What will be the advantages of using the Hindi language?
- Every citizen has the right to understand the law as finally laid down by the Supreme Court, and at present, one must know that such Language is only Hindi.
- The Hindi language also facilitates the lawyers to move from the Lower Courts to the High Courts as they do not face linguistic problems, and the Hindi language is maintained at both levels.
- Introducing Hindi will help lawyers who face difficulties while speaking English.
Other Country's languages:
- In a landmark decision, Abu Dhabi has included Hindi as the third official language used in its courts, along with Arabic and English, as part of a move designed to improve access to justice. It aims to help Hindi speakers to know about litigation procedures, their rights, and duties without any language barrier.
- Japanese is allowed in the Supreme Court of Japan, Chinese is permitted in the Supreme Court of China, and French is permitted in the Supreme Court of France. Still, it is pathetic that Hindi is not allowed in the Supreme Court of India. A foreign language English is preferred over the Indian Language.
Language has always been a sentimental issue in India. The introduction of respective official languages of the states in 25 different High Courts is a big one that will have severe implications for the Indian judicial system. The states may well deconstruct a hitherto unified and well-structured legal system within the countries in the game of linguistic unity. The introduction of official state languages for proceedings also directly confronts and interferes with the transfer policy of High Court judges. The communication channels between the judiciary of different states will be broken. In that case, the unified structure of the Country's judicial system would not be the only thing that could fall on the altar of petty regional politics and linguistic conservatism.
Now that the Supreme Court is for hearing in Hindi, the people of the South will raise their voices for themselves and demand a hearing in their Language in the Supreme Court. Now it remains to be seen whether the Parliament will bring a new bill or does the Supreme Court guidelines on it?
To read this article in Hindi- Hearing in Hindi in the Supreme Court
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