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Report No. 216

Mr. T.L. Viswanatha Iyer, Sr. Advocate

"Your letter dated October 11, 2007 regarding amendment to Article 348 of the Constitution of India. I am giving below my views on the proposed amendments.

a. Regarding Original drafting of enactments in Hindi:-

I do not think this is either welcome or advisable. Whatever be the status awarded to Hindi as one of the official languages, the fact remains that all the High Courts transact their judicial business in English. This includes the Supreme Court also. Interpretation of statutes is one of the common matters which occurs day in and day out in our courts.

Draftsmanship in English has reached a level of advancement with its own nuances and inflexions which I do not think drafting in any other language has so far reached. Case law in the interpretation of statutes in English is rich and legion. We have in addition the abundant treasure of comparable statutes in U.K. and the Common Wealth countries as also in the United States.

All this will become unavailable and useless while interpreting statutes in other languages. The common medium of understanding such statutes especially in the vast chunk of Southern India is English. This cannot be upset by giving up the drafting in the English language. Nothing is gained by drafting the original enactments in Hindi except perhaps satisfying an ego.

(We may also lose in the process the benefit of comparison with statutes in other States on the same subject in the concurrent list (e.g. Rent Control Legislation) with the plethora of case law from the various High Courts. This will be an added disadvantage and loss to the legal knowledge available in the country.

Regarding the second query that the High Courts/Supreme Court should start delivering their judgments in Hindi, I am emphatically of the view that this will be a retrograde step. English has been the language of the judgements, since the Superior Courts were established in this country about a century and a half back or even earlier. The Court language of the common law countries of which India is one is also English.

The doctrine of precedents still holds sway in the country and is one of the mainstay principles of the judicial system. Our Courts draw freely on English, American and commonwealth precedents which are all in English. If judgements were to be in Hindi, in view of the inevitable quotations from the precedents, they will be partly in Hindi with all the quotations in English. The judgement will look grotesque.

The idea of a uniform Judicial system for the whole country is necessarily to have a uniform set of legal principle applicable in every part of the country, by the courts drawing upon the Judicial wisdom in other parts of the country through their judgements. The advantage will be lost if Judgements are to be drawn in Hindi instead of English.

If Judgements are to be written in Hindi, it will require an enormous amount of literature by way of glossary of legal terms. Delivery of Judgements which are already getting delayed in many courts if judges who are not trained to write in Hindi are constrained to write the Judgements in Hindi, will get further delayed.

Add to this, the non availability of the latest technological advancements in the communications field particularly the computers, which may take their own time to seep through our system.

Let us also analyse what will be the advantage of Judgements in English. It is not as if these Judgements will not be understood by the Departments concerned. Nor will they be precluded from passing their orders in Hindi or the regional language. In fact most of the Government orders touching the common man are already being made in the regional language. Even the file notings are very often in the regional language.

There is therefore no special gain or advantage to government departments by the language of the courts being in Hindi.

The judgements of our courts are nowadays being quoted in foreign courts, just as our courts lean heavily on foreign judgements to sustain their reasoning. The access and the respect which our courts earn by such reliance by the foreign courts will be totally lost by our judgements being in Hindi.

The advantage, if any gained by adopting Hindi as the court language will be far outweighed by retaining English as the court language."

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

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