India: Law panel says ‘no’ to mak ing Hindi official court language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Dec 15 17:03:54 UTC 2008

India - Law panel says 'no' to making Hindi official court language

J. Venkatesan

"Switch from English in courts will create unrest"

For judges at highest level, language is an integral part of
decision-making process  Literature under Indian system is based on
English and American textbooks and case laws. New Delhi: The Law
Commission has rejected a parliamentary committee recommendation to
make Hindi the official court language for delivering judgments in the
Supreme Court and all High Courts and also to amend the Constitution
to enable the Union Legislature department to undertake original
drafting of laws in Hindi.

In finalising its report, the Commission, headed by Justice A.R.
Lakshmanan, considered the views of several former Chief Justices of
the Supreme Court, retired Supreme Court and High Court judges and
eminent lawyers. The report, unanimously approved by the Commission on
Friday said: "No language should be thrust on any section of the
people against their will since it is likely to become
counter-productive. It is not merely a vehicle of thought and
expression, but for judges at the highest level, it is an integral
part of their decision-making process."

The Commission said: "Arguments are generally made in higher courts in
English and the basic literature under the Indian system is primarily
based on English and American textbooks and case laws. Thus, judges at
the higher level should be left free to evolve their own pattern of
delivering judgments.

Transfer policy

"In view of the national transfer policy in respect of the High Court
judges, if any judge is compelled to deliver judgments in a language
in which he is not well versed, it might become extremely difficult
for him to work judicially.  "On transfer from one part of the country
another, a High Court judge is not expected to learn a new language at
his age and to apply the same in delivering judgments."
The report said: "Furthermore, the unity and integrity of the country
is 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 throughout the country, which is an
avoidable exercise.

"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 also facilitates the movement of lawyers from High
Courts to the apex court since they are not confronted with any
linguistic problem and English remains the language at both levels.


"In so far as legislative drafting is concerned, every [piece of]
legislation although authoritatively enacted in English may have a
Hindi translation. The same analogy may be applied even in respect of
executive actions at the central level, but the higher judiciary
should not be subjected to any kind of even persuasive change in the
presence societal context." The report is to be submitted to Law
Minister H.R. Bhardwaj next week

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