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Report No. 116

A. The Problem of Language

It is undoubtedly true that in exercise of the power conferred by section 272 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and sub-section (2) of section 137 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, most of the State Governments have declared local language to be the language of the court. Therefore, up to and inclusive of the court of District and Sessions Judge, the proceedings are conducted and the judgments are written in the local language. When a judicial service common to Union and the States is set up and recruitment is made at national level, it is distinctly possible that one who is educated and has cleared his examination in one State language may find his posting in another State with an entirely different local language.

It is equally true that witnesses in every trial, civil or criminal, give evidence in the local language and even occasionally in local dialects. It is also true that judicial process requires thorough understanding of the oral evidence given in local language and documents drawn up in local language so as to render even-handed justice. It follows as a corollary that a member of the Indian Judicial Service allocated to a particular State must be proficient and conversant in the local language. Giving maximum consideration to these genuine apprehensions, could it be said that the language presents an insurmountable obstacle which must render the concept of Indian Judicial Service impracticable?

Prior to the reorganisation of States in 1956, a composite State like Bombay comprised three major regions having distinct regional languages such as Marathi, Gujarati and Kannada. Similarly, the State of Tamil Nadu, then known as the State of Madras, had large areas speaking different local languages, such as Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Before Bihar was set up as a separate State and Orissa was carved out from Bengal, the composite State had three principal languages-Bengali, Hindi and Oriya. Such illustrations can be multiplied. Taking the illustration of the bigger bilingual Bombay and recalling the fact that the proceedings in the lowest court were always conducted in the local language, the difficulty was solved by making it obligatory for each member of the subordinate judiciary to pick up one more language over and above his mothertongue.

To illustrate, a member of the subordinate service having Gujarati as mother tongue had to learn and pass an examination either in Marathi or Kannada. Later on, it was obligatory to pass Hindi examination. Such an arrangement also operated in the then Madras State. This arrangement worked well and a complaint was never heard that a member of the subordinate judiciary posted in an area where language other than his mother tongue is spoken, found it difficult to understand the witness, interpret the document drawn up in local language and render judgment. Members of Indian Civil Service were posted as District and Sessions Judges till the advent of independence and some of them continued in judiciary even thereafter.

Only fresh induction was stopped. Some of these judges came to be posted in a State other than their State of birth or education. As Sessions Judges, they had original trial jurisdiction. They heard and recorded evidence of witnesses given in local language. They presided over the court having jurisdiction to hear first appeal. They read, interpreted and dealt with documents drawn up in local language with overtones of dialects. Never a complaint was heard that there was miscarriage of justice attributable to the failure of the judge to understand local language other than his mother tongue. Even foreign recruits proved to be competent judges at that level.

Further, the members of the IAS and IPS are recruited from all over India and are allocated to States other than the one in which hq or she may have been educated. IAS and IPS officers come in close and direct contact with the masses. As far as the court proceedings are concerned, ordinarily, there is always a lawyer to speak for the client. But officers of administrative services will have close contact with masses in rural areas and have to converse directly with them on all development and welfare projects. They are so trained that they pick up the local language. Would it then be very difficult for the recruits of IJS to be trained in the language of the State to which he or she is being allocated?

The Government of West Bengal, while opposing the proposal for setting up of an All-India judicial service, conceded that it is true that the question of language does not present any problem in the case of IAS and IPS officers, but that would not hold good in respect of all-India judicial service officers because the nature of work required to be done by the judicial officers is quite different from that of the IAS and IPS officers. Accuracy of judicial decisions depends on proper reading, appreciation of documents, the language of which is very different from the spoken language.

Again, recording of oral evidence given in courts in local language and dialect and proper assessment of it would need thorough knowledge of the language which we cannot expect from AIDS officers from other States' The very statement concedes that language cannot be an insurmountable difficulty in the way of setting up IJS. The objection on the ground of inadequate knowledge of local language cannot be summarily dismissed or overlooked as unsustainable. It must be given due importance. However, picking up one additional language is not that difficult. Further, it must be remembered that there is always an interpreter like a lawyer in the court providing a link between the judge and the litigant: there is no such intermediary in the case of officers of the administrative services who directly deal with the masses.

Therefore, the formation of the Indian Judicial Service cannot be discountenanced on the ground that the recruits to the Service would not have sufficient or at any rate adequate knowledge of the local language of the State where he or she is allocated. At that young age, intensive training that is proposed to be imparted to the recruits to IJS for picking up one more language would certainly provide adequate and effective knowledge of the local language of the State to which he or she is allocated.

Formation of an All India Judicial Service Back

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