Report No. 14
I am on the whole in agreement with the actual recommendations made in the Report with minor differences. But in the course of the Report, some observations have been made upon which I shall have to offer certain criticisms.
To start with, I may say that the approach to the problem is not one which I would make. On every question the Report of the Language Commission is taken as a starting point. The criticism proceeds on that basis. I am afraid this is not giving to the Report the position to which it is entitled to under the Constitution, until the Report has been finalised by the Parliament under Article 348. So far it is only the opinion of the majority of a number of persons on controversial question and as a majority report it has a provisional status.
The Language Commission owes its authority to Article 344 and notwithstanding the report of the Commission, the Parliament, the President and the Regional Legislatures have certain powers in the matters of regulating them for a period of 15 years after the commencement of the Constitution, meanwhile English continues to be the official language.
Attention may be drawn to Article 344 clause (4) requires the constitution of the Committee with members of both Houses Of Parliament and under clause (5)-"It shall be the duty of the Committee to examine the recommendations of the Commission" with a power under clause (6) of the President to issue directions in accordance with the whole or any part of that Report. There is not even a report of the Parliamentary Committee under Article 344 with regard to the report of the Commission.
Under these circumstances, the Commission's recommendations are of an entirely provisional nature-not forgetting the very important fact that the recommendations of the Commission are in the first place not unanimous-there being important and very authoritative notes of dissent, and secondly, that since the publication of the Report, there have been tremendous agitation in several parts of India against the main recommendations of the Commission and the Legislature has not yet expressed its opinion on the point.
In any discussion on the language question of the Courts and of the Laws we should, therefore, proceed more or less on a carte blanche and judge the whole thing on the merits and not undue importance to the opinion of the Commission which, in my opinion, has to some extent been done in the manner of approach.
With regard to the main points on the recommendations in the Draft (Report) I have, as I have said, comparatively few criticisms to offer and I might almost say that I accept the recommendations generally. But in making the Reports, certain observations are made to which there is room for serious objections. I should, therefore, add a note against all such statements made. But I should add a caution that every observation made in connection with discussion of these questions is not to be necessarily acceptable.
Apart from the Constitutional position of the Report, on the merits there are very serious matters of consideration on the recommendations of the Commission. The outstanding fact about the recommendations is that they assume the introduction of Hindi by the following stages: For the first 15 years no Hindi except by special provisions by the authority of the President. Thereafter the Hindi language will have to be brought up to the standard which is necessary for its universal adoption as the language of Law and the Courts. Thirdly, it is virtually admitted that the Hindi language, as it is, is not capable of performing the functions required of a precise and accurate language of all laws.
The proposals are that steps will be taken by means of translation, by making a Law Lexicon and things of that sort and certain undefined things done by the State to bring the language upto the mark. What would be the position in the meantime? Every page of the recommendations would show that there is bound to be terrible confusion in the interim periods and not in one place, but several such confusions in several places. In other words, we shall, instead of simplifying the Law and making it more intelligible and accessible to the people, make it extremely difficult to be sure about them. There is bound to be a confusion much of the measure of that made by the Tower of Babel for various long and indefinite periods in the course of this evolution.
I do not think that it is worthwhile giving up our present position of precision of law in favour of this confusion.
In the recommendations made in our draft, the present factual position is correctly worked out in the early paragraphs of the Report. In spite of a certain number of languages, which are in use in different States, all legal proceedings in different Provinces have avoided any confusion by reason of the reference to English. All these will be gone and confusion will be multiplied at every stage, as is virtually pointed out in our Draft Report itself.
Notwithstanding the views ultimately expressed with regard to the language about the position of English, the Draft Report expresses surprise-"that a few members of the legal profession which by its training and practice is accustomed to take balanced views should have supported this extreme position". If this refers to the fact of the opposition to Hindi as such, I have no objection. But what is the balanced opinion? If it is one suggested in the draft, it is certainly not in favour of having Hindi at all costs and rejecting English. The mischief of the deficiencies of the Hindi language will not be solved by a Law Lexicon alone as the Draft supposes.
A Law Lexicon may help translators but it cannot lay down the law with the precision of a Statute. Then the Draft Report refers to the Law Lexicon which is being framed. I have had a slight connection with the framing of the Law Lexicon so far as the legal terms are concerned and I may say that there is every reason to apprehend what the Draft report seeks to avoid in the following words:-"There is no reason why in preparing a legal Lexicon in Hindi, English and Latin phrases and words which are in current use in legal phraseology and which have acquired a definite and well accepted legal connotation understood all over the Anglo-Saxon world should not be largely adopted"
The Hindi version of the Constitution itself which is authoritative in the sense that it is prepared under the authority of the Government shows to what absurd length the Sanskritised portions has gone and will go. The Hindi Constitution even goes to the length of translating a legal term like 'certiorari' as 'utpreshana' which conveys nothing to a Hindi-speaking man and, though it might convey the sense of the original Latin in the ancient writ, now defunct, it will be a definitely incorrect term to express the modern sense of modern order of certiorari.
The difficulties about translation and the maintenance of a large staff of translators for years have been referred to in the Report. I should say that the difficulties would be almost unsurmountable. The translators themselves would, first of all, have to refer to the lexicon that is prepared and when they have been trained in the language of the lexicon, they will have to translate the English or the regional languages into that language. All that I can say is that that is the surest way of creating the utmost confusion, and even then the amount of labour would be absolutely out of proportion to the benefit obtained by it.
I would refer to another provision of the Constitution. Under Article. 348, which does nc t relate the interim period of 15 years only, Article 348(1)(a) says that unless the Parliament provides otherwise,-"all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court and the authoritative texts of all Bills to be introduced or amendments thereto to be moved in either House of Parliament or in the House of either House of the Legislature of a State or of all Acts passed by Parliament or the Legislature shall be in the English language."
It provides therefore that notwithstanding the fact that a particular legislation is made either in Hindi or in the regional language as provided by the recommendations of the Commission, the authoritative version shall still be English. The Bill must be introduced in English, all discussions on it will take place in English, but the final Bill will be, say, in Hindi, and embodied in a form and language in which it has never been placed before or discussed in Parliament or the State Legislature, but the legislation will be put in Hindi or the regional language. Everybody knows that much depends upon small words and phrases or even punctuations upon the exact form of which sometimes elaborate discussion takes place.
This Draft does not contain any summary of the conclusions. It may be attempted to make such a summary. As a matter of fact, here is very little of the Report of the Law Commission that has been endorsed by this Draft. I might attempt to make a summary as follows:
The conclusion is that as it is advisable to have a uniformity of language, the present position of English is not advantageous for which it cannot be replaced by Hindi or any other language. But a rider is added that at some convenient date in the future, Hindi should be substituted for and take the place of English. This is a conclusion to which I do not subscribe. In any case, I do not think we are called upon to speculate about the future. It would be for the Parliament to adapt the Law to the circumstances as they are.
The possibility of regional languages for all proceedings in State Courts which has been advocated by some has been rejected. To this I entirely agree. But I do not feel the justification for the observation that it is surprising that the opinion expressed by some lawyers should give evidence antagonistic to Hindi on the ground of its being a regional language. I do not see much justification for this surprise when as a matter of fact, the advocacy of Hindi for purely provincial reasons does not cause any surprise.
It is suggested that the authoritative enactment ought to be eventually Hindi both in respect of the Parliament and the State Legislatures. I refuse to accept this as an unalterable truth. The Constitution does not make it so. The provisions of the Constitution are that after the Language Commission's report has been accepted by a Parliamentary Committee, it may be made effectually the official language. In that view I think that it is surprising that the opinion that question should be reconsidered even though it involves a change of the Constitution should cause no surprise.
The whole of the suggestion in sub-paragraph (17) on the whole is also vitiated by the assumption that you must accept without question the provision in the Constitution making Hindi the official language and that for the next few years is not the position. The matter is open to consideration. The Report of the Language Commission has to be considered by a Parliamentary Committee, and on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee, the proper legislation will have to be made by order of the President, it is true, but with the authority of the Parliament.
Until that I do not think why the mere publication of a provisional Report of the Language Commission should compel us to accept the unalterability of the provision about the language of the State. The matter has been very seriously considered not only in the dissentient reports but also by distinguished members of the public everywhere in the Union and there has been a very vocal opposition to this view. I do not think that it would be within our province to make a recommendation which brushes aside all the opposition which the suggestion has made.
In paragraph 22, it is again assumed that the change over from English into Hindi must be made, but it would only have to wait till the ground has been prepared. I do not understand why this should be taken for granted; and least of all, why we who, in our opinion, in the draft have accepted the position that Hindi cannot be made the State language for legal purposes now should go out of our way in a way to mortgage the future and provide for a possibility which may never arise.
The passages in the Report concluding in paragraph 24 in extending the continuance of the present system to at least 25 years is wholly uncalled for and should be abandoned. It is enough that we find out that the time has not yet come for changing over it Hindi as the official language of the State. Whether it may come in the future inevitably or otherwise may be left to the future. The Constitution will not be amended. To this extent, I entirely differ from the suggestion.