Report No. 216
I have given my anxious and thoughtful consideration to the question at issue. All the retired Hon'ble Judges of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Judges of High Court and lawyers are of the uniform view that the Constitution should not be amended to enable the Legislative Department to undertake original drafting in Hindi and that the proposal was stoutly opposed.
The learned Judges are also of the opinion that since the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are drawn from all over India, and they are not all conversant with Hindi, they should not be asked to deliver their judgments in Hindi. Furthermore, the unity and integrity of the country is bound to be affected by the linguistic chauvinists and that the switch over from English to Hindi in the Supreme Court and High Courts will create political and legal unrest through out the country, which is an avoidable exercise.
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer was of the opinion that he is all for Hindi as a personal preference, but all against Hindi by compulsion, especially of judgments of the Supreme Court of India. He also suggested giving Hindi a high place in national expression and full facility in instant translation of every representation people wish to make to the higher courts as an integral part of free legal aid.
Justice B.N. Srikrishna is of the considered view that the proposal to require the Supreme Court and the High Courts to deliver judgments in Hindi would definitely result in chaos and will affect the administration of justice.
The former Chief Justice of India Mr. Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah says that one must acknowledge that Hindi as our national language must assert its rightful place in all areas of our national life and higher judiciary should be no exception. However, he said that the parliamentary views should be respected and a beginning has to be made though circumspection requires that we should hasten slowly.
Justice Jagannatha Shetty, former Judge of the Supreme Court is of the opinion that the Supreme Court and High Courts cannot be asked to start delivering their judgments and decrees in Hindi and that the same is a very very contentious issue which may have far reaching consequences.
Mr. Justice A.M. Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India is of the opinion that it may not be advisable to ask the Supreme Court and High Courts to switch to Hindi. He was of the opinion that the base to take the hop is not available and it would be wise to leave the matter of introduction of Hindi in the State High Court to the judgment of the Governor of the State under Article 348(2) of the Constitution and that he would be the best judge to decide if the time was ripe to take the step in that direction.
Justice Santosh Hegde, former Judge, Supreme Court of India is of the view that this move is neither politically wise nor constitutionally correct, and hence he strongly opposed this move.
Mr. Justice S.S.M. Quadri, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, is of the opinion that the conditions in our country are not ripe to make such amendment and to issue directions requiring the High Courts and Supreme Court to start delivery of judgments and orders in Hindi and, therefore, for these and many other reasons switching over to dictating judgments, orders, decrees, etc. in Hindi will be entirely an exercise in futility.
Mr. Justice K.S. Paripoornan, former Judge, Supreme Court, has also expressed his opinion against the proposal to amend Article 348 of the Constitution, regard being had to the world events since 1949 and the totality of circumstances by which we have accepted, adopted and been substantially benefited by the English language.
Mr. K.K. Venugopal, Senior Advocate, has expressed the view that any attempt to implement the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee would bring about divisiveness among, and confrontation between the people of India.
Only three High Court Advocates' Associations have responded to our request to offer their opinion. The Andhra Pradesh Advocates' Association, Kerala High Court Advocates' Association and Pondicherry Advocates' Association have passed resolution opposing the proposal.
Language is a highly emotional issue for the citizens of any nation. It has a great unifying force and is a powerful instrument for national integration. No language should be thrust on any section of the people against their will since it is likely to become counterproductive.
It is not merely a vehicle of thought and expression, but for Judges at the higher level, it is an integral part of their decision-making process. Judges have to hear and understand the submissions of both the sides, apply the law to adjust equities. Arguments are generally made in higher courts in English and the basic literature under the Indian system is primarily based on English and American text books and case laws. Thus, Judges at the higher level should be left free to evolve their own pattern of delivering judgments.
It is particularly important to note that in view of the national transfer policy in respect of the High Court Judges, if any such Judge is compelled to deliver judgments in a language with which he is not wellversed, it might become extremely difficult for him to work judicially. On transfer from one part of the country to another, a High Court Judge is not expected to learn a new language at his age and to apply the same in delivering judgments.
At any rate no language should be thrust upon the Judges of the higher judiciary and they should be left free to deliver their judgments in the language they prefer. It is important to remember that every citizen, every Court has the right to understand the law laid down finally by the Apex Court and at present one should appreciate that such a language is only English.
The use of English language also facilitates the movement of lawyers from High Courts to the Apex Court since they are not confronted with any linguistic problems and English remains the language at both the levels. Any survey of the society in general or its cross-sections will clearly substantiate the above proposition which does not admit of much debate, particularly in the present political, social and economic scenario.
Paragraph 23. 10 of HM Seervai's Constitutional Law of India, 1996 Ed, Vol. III, page 2585, runs as follows ;
"23.10. If the unity of the judicial administration, and of the Bench and the Bar is to be preserved. It is to be hoped that such permission will not be given. Entry 78, List I expressly confers on Parliament the power to legislate In respect of persons entitled to practise before the High Courts. The Advocates Act, 1961 has created a unified autonomous Bar of India. Today the legal profession is one united profession entitled to practise throughout India.
If the language of different High Courts is to be different, the right to practise throughout India becomes illusory in practise and each High Court will be isolated by the barrier of its own language. It will also be deprived of the assistance to be derived from judgments of other Courts, and the uniform interpretation of Central laws, so desirable in judicial administration, would be unattainable.
The work of the Supreme Court and the recruitment of Judges to the Supreme Court must greatly suffer, for Judges of the Supreme Court could not be recruited from High Courts where the language was different from that spoken in the Supreme Court. The unifying influence of a Supreme Court on judicial administration would be seriously impaired, if not destroyed, and the quality of its Judges and of its judgments must necessarily suffer."
It may, however, be admitted that in so far as legislative drafting is concerned, every legislation although authoritatively enacted in English may have a Hindi authoritative translation along with the same at the central level. Same analogy may be applied even in respect of executive actions at the central level, but, as submitted above, the higher judiciary should not be subjected to any kind of even persuasive change in the present societal context.
Dr. Justice AR. Lakshmanan
Prof. Dr. Tahir Mahmood)