Topic: General Studies 2:
- Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Language in Judiciary
Context: The Haryana government in May 2020 notified an amendment to its Official Language Act, that will mandate the use of Hindi in subordinate courts and tribunals across the state
Although there was never a bar on the use of Hindi in Haryana’s courts, English had been the preferred choice in many courts and districts.
What was the objective of the amendment?
- To ensure that people get justice in their own language
- To make the judicial system more litigant friendly.
A brief history of Language in our Judiciary
- Colonial History: India’s legal system is an institutional inheritance of the British Raj and thus the English language is an integral part of its foundation
- Continuance of English in Post-Independent India: The familiarity of English for official work led the Constituent Assembly to retain it, in addition to Hindi, as the Official Language of the Union.
- Article 348 of the Constitution: It was categorically drafted to stipulate that proceedings in the high courts and the Supreme Court would be conducted in English, and that the authoritative text of all acts, orders, rules and regulations would be in English subject to Parliament enacting a law otherwise.
- Necessity of English: It was asserted that English had become critical to the interpretation and application of laws, which too were originally drafted in English. Hindi, or other Indian languages, could only be used for such a purpose once it developed the same kind of capacity, knowledge and analytical accuracy as required for legal interpretation.
- Absence of sustained effort: In the wake of inadequate efforts to develop and enrich Hindi, English continued to be the language of choice for the legal system.
Challenges w.r.t amendments by Haryana government
- While the Amendment does envisage six months for building infrastructure and for training staff, it is unlikely to be adequate time for lawyers and judges to effectively re-equip themselves
- Also, there is a systemic and institutionalised predominance of English language in the State (as well as in the Country). Some of these are:
- Haryana’s own State Judicial Examination continues to be conducted in English, with Hindi only being a separate paper.
- Moreover, the Bar Council of India’s Rules of Legal Education prescribe English as the default medium of instruction for all law course
- Even those legal institutions which seek to allow instruction in language other than English, are required to conduct a compulsory examination for English proficiency.
- Major laws, judicial precedents, commentaries and other legal resources relating to Haryana are all primarily available in English only.
- A similar amendment was brought in by Punjab in 2008, but the progress on the ground has been meagre
- Justice B N Srikrishna had remarked that unless two generations of lawyers were trained in Hindi, such a move (introduction of Hindi in the SC and the high courts) would not be feasible
- It would indeed be ideal for our justice delivery system to function in the common tongue.
- But an issue as important as this needs to be approached from a practical standpoint despite its moral and emotive charm.
- What is required is not an abrupt imposition of governmental choice, but the gradual creation of an atmosphere for all stakeholders to move towards adopting the language of their choice
Connecting the dots:
- Reorganisation of States on linguistic lines
- Demand for regional benches of Supreme Court