Official Language in Courts

Why in discussion?

Recently, the Supreme Court has asked the petitioners challenging the 'Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act' - 2020 to appeal to the Punjab-Haryana High Court.

key points:

  • The petition has sought to declare the 'Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act' as unconstitutional.
  • The point to be noted here is that the Act enforces Hindi as the sole official language to be used in the lower courts of the state.

Main provisions of the Act:

  • A new sub-section 3(a) has been added in the Act for necessary changes in the 'Haryana Official Language Act'.
  • This sub-section provides for functioning in Hindi language only in all civil, criminal and revenue courts subordinate to the Punjab-Haryana High Court, rent tribunals and other tribunals constituted by the State Government in Haryana.
  • As per Section 3 of the Act, Hindi shall be used for all official purposes of the State of Haryana except for such exceptional functions as the Government of Haryana may, by notification, specify.

Article 345 and Official Language:

  • Article 345 of the Constitution empowers the Legislature of a State to adopt Hindi or one or more other languages in the offices of that State.
  • By the Government of Haryana, the 'Haryana Official Language Act' has been made under the provision made in Article-345.

Importance of amendment:

  • The litigants in the state of Haryana have to face many difficulties due to the use of English language in the lower courts. People have to completely depend on lawyers for understanding of complaints or other documents.
  • Witnesses also have to suffer because of the use of the English language, as most of them do not have a good understanding of the English language.

Arguments against the amendment:

  • Lawyers believe that the introduction of Hindi as the sole language will create two distinct classes of lawyers.
    • First those who are very comfortable in Hindi language.
    • Others who do not feel comfortable in Hindi.
  • The litigants are of the view that the language gradient is of much greater importance than the general use of a language to argue any case.
  • This amendment law violates the right to equality (Article 14) and the right to freedom to choose any profession, dignity and livelihood.
  • The government's argument behind the recent amendment was that most of the people practicing law in the lower courts of the state are proficient in Hindi, while the reality is quite different from this.
  • Haryana has many industrial centers and it will not be easy for many lawyers to argue in Hindi in cases of industrial disputes. This can put a strain on the profession of lawyers.

Conclusion:

  • Haryana is a predominantly Hindi speaking state, with a population of approximately 100% that speaks or understands Hindi. It would be appropriate to understand that the purpose of the judiciary is the welfare of the people and not to serve the interests of the institutions.

Language Provisions of the Judiciary:

  • The following provisions have been made in Article 348 regarding the language of the judiciary in the Constitution:
    1. Unless other order is adopted by Parliament, proceedings of the Supreme Court and of every High Court shall be in English language only.
    2. However, the Governor of a State may, with the prior approval of the President, accord Hindi or any other official language the status of the language of proceedings of the High Court.

    • Provided that the decisions, orders or orders of the Court shall be in English only, unless Parliament otherwise directs.
  • Official Language Act- 1963 empowers the Governor to allow the use of Hindi or any other language of the State in the decisions, orders passed by the High Court with the prior permission of the President, but along with this its English translation is also attached. Will have to do