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Report No. 216

Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath, Former Chief Justice of Karnataka & Kerala;

Chairman, Central Administrative Tribunal; Member, National Human Rights Commission; Chairman, Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System

"Dear Dr. Justice Lakshmanan,

Delighted to receive your letter dated 30-9-2008 inviting me to offer my views/opinion on the recommendation made by the Committee of Parliament on use of Hindi in original drafting of Bills, Acts, Rules, etc., by the Legislative Department and use of Hindi in delivering Judgments and decrees by the Supreme Court and High Court. I am sorry for the delay. I have formulated my views on both the recommendation as follows:-


Article 351 of the Constitution provides that it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of Hindi Language so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all elements of composite culture of India. Article 343 declares Hindi to be the official language of the Union. Article 344 provides that switch over from English to Hindi may not be achieved immediately on the commencement of the Constitution and this should be a gradual process.

Schedule VIII to the Constitution contains the list of Eighteen languages including Hindi. Article 344 contemplates Constitution of a Commission consisting of members representing different languages specified in VIII Schedule to make recommendations for the progressive use of the official language and also for the purposes mentioned in Article 348 namely, the language to be used in the Supreme Court and the High Courts for drafting Bills, Acts, Rules etc., by the legislative Department.

The recommendations of the Commission are then considered by the Joint Parliamentary Committee constituted for the said purpose under Article 344(4). That Committee has to consider the recommendations of the Commission and report to the President their opinion thereon. The President can after considering the report issue directions in accordance with the whole or any part of that report.

The ultimate aim as provided in Article 351 is the spread and development of Hindi language and enrichment of the composite culture of India. Articles 343 and 344 deal with the process of transition to the use of Hindi for all official purposes of the Union and to determine the pace of progress to achieve the same. The overriding concern of the founding fathers of the Constitution as can be discerned also from the Constitution assembly debates is, not to impose the use of Hindi on the peoples speaking other Languages against their wishes.

2. The same concern is discernable from Article 348 (1)(a) & (b) of the Constitution which deals with switch over from English to Hindi as regards the Language to be used in the Supreme Court and the High Courts and the authoritative text of Bills, Acts, Orders, Rules, Regulations and bye-laws. Until the Parliament otherwise provides by law, the proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court and the Authoritative text of all Bills, Acts, etc., shall be the English.

Article 349 provides special procedure for enacting laws contemplated by Article 348(1). No Bill for enacting a law contemplated by Article 348 (1) can be introduced without the sanction of the President which can be accorded after the President considers the recommendation of the Commission and the report of the Committee constituted under Article 344(4).

The Committee constituted under Article 344 has made two recommendations 16.8(d) and 16.8(3) under Article 348 and sought the opinion of the Law Commission of India. They are as under:-

"16.8(d) Article 348 of the Constitution may be amended to enable Legislative Department to undertake original drafting in Hindi.

16.8(e) After the amendment of Article 348 of the Constitution High Courts/Supreme Court should be asked to start delivering their Judgments and decrees etc., in Hindi so that large number of Government Departments, who are carrying out judicial/quasi-judicial functions, could be able to deliver orders in Hindi. At present these Departments are unable to pass orders in Hindi because the appeal against their orders in High Courts/Supreme Court would have to be conducted in English."

3. The recommendation of the Committee 16.8(d) is that Article 348 be amended to undertake drafting in Hindi Bills, Acts, Rules, etc. I must point out that the question of amending Article 348 does not arise at all. What Article 348(1)(b) contemplates is enactment of law by Parliament in this behalf and not amendment of Article 348 itself.

Drafting laws is a very difficult and complicated work. It needs a very rich and specialised legal vocabulary to enact precise and unambiguous laws. English language has a very rich vocabulary of legal terms. Until Hindi Vocabulary of legal terms and maxims, improves it cannot be made the Language of Legislation. I am therefore not in favour of making a law to mandate that the authoritative text of Bills, Acts, Rules etc., should be in Hindi.

4. Another reason against the recommendation is that this will unnecessarily give rise to opposition and contraversy. There are as many as 17 constitutionally recognised non-Hindi Languages. Imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi speaking citizens against their wishes is likely to affect the unity and integrity of the country. We have seen how in the State of Maharashtra people very recently revolted against influence of Hindi and went to the extent of boycotting Hindi films in which Amitabh Bachan has acted.

The non-Hindi people are not yet in the mood for accepting Hindi as common medium for Legislation. There is no great urgency or direct necessity to introduce Hindi in the field of legislation. Large number of members of Parliament from non-Hindi speaking States will not be able to read or understand the laws drafted in Hindi. It will therefore become very difficult for such M.Ps to effectively contribute to law machinery process.

It serves the purpose if, along with the English text a text in Hindi is also annexed. This will satisfy the needs of the Hindi speaking M.Ps also.

In my opinion attempt must first be made to persuade the non-Hindi speaking M.Ps and people to accept the switch over to Hindi. It would be detrimental to National Unity and Harmony to introduce Hindi for drafting of laws etc., without the concurrence of non-Hindi speaking people of India. Hence, the recommendation deserves to be rejected.

(5) Re:16.8(e): The recommendation of the Committee is that High Courts and Supreme Court should be required to deliver Judgments and decrees etc., in Hindi.

The reasons given for this recommendation in the words of the Committee are as follows:-

"So that large number of Government departments, who are carrying out judicial, quasi-judicial functions could be able to delivery orders in Hindi. At present these Departments are unable to pass orders in Hindi, because the appeal against their orders in High courts/Supreme Court would have to be conducted in English".

These are not at all substantial reasons to compel the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to deliver their Judgments and decrees in Hindi.

Nothing prevents Government Officers from passing orders in Hindi. When such orders are challenged in the High Courts and the Supreme Court the practice presently followed is to produce the English translation of the orders and the work is going on quite smoothly in the Courts. In order to enable the Officers of Government who know only Hindi and can't read or understand the Judgments of Courts given in English is concerned, they may be provided Hindi translation of Judgments of Court which are in English. This would solve their problem.

In some States, Government Officers write their orders in their respective State languages. For their benefit Courts orders may be translated into the respective State languages and provided to the Officers concerned.

Hence none of the reasons stated in support of the recommendation are tenable.

We should not forget that Lawyer and Judges have been using English Language for centuries. Their legal education is mostly in English. Thousands of laws are in English. It is not easy to find precise equivalent legal terms, maxims and principles in Hindi. Most of the text books on laws are in English. Journals and law books of other countries which are helpful to decision making process are in English. They cannot be used if Hindi is used.

In my opinion time is not ripe to switch over from English to Hindi for delivering Judgements in Hindi. Switching over to Hindi will further add to delay in disposal of cases.

Eminent Lawyers from other countries cannot appear in our Courts if Hindi is introduced. The entire legal community consisting of Lawyers and Judges would be against introduction of Hindi in High Courts and Supreme Court. Thus introduction of Hindi in the superior Courts will bring in more problems than benefits.

It is enough if provision is made to translate the decisions of the Supreme Court and High courts into Hindi and other State languages. If the real object is to enable the litigant to understand the decision in his case it would serve the purpose if a translation is provided to him.

I therefore see no good reason whatsoever to interfere with the present use of English in the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The country is facing enough number of other problems. Let us not add some more problems and disturb the smooth functioning of the Supreme Court and the High Courts. I am quite against the recommendation 16.8(e) of the Committee.

I strongly urge you to oppose the two recommendations of the Committee."

Non-Feasibility of Introduction of Hindi as Compulsory Language in the Supreme Court of India Back

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