Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
Language plays the most integral part of our existence. It solaces in building up strong meaningful rapports and enables to become conscious about injustice in our circumambient. Without meticulous usage of language, a social being left as relatively socio-emotionally deserted.
Pertaining to the above assertions, this article aims to examine the recent proclamation by the Haryana Government imposing Hindi as the official language in all of its courts and tribunals.
CONSTITUTIONAL AND JUDICIAL PURVIEW
The Haryana Government pinpointed that Haryana was segregated from the State of Punjab on linguistic basis in 1966 as it argued that Hindi is the primarily spoken language in the segregated area. Thus, Hindi was proclaimed as the official language under the Haryana Official Language Act, 1969. Under this act, it was enacted that Hindi will be used as the first language and Punjabi as the second language pertaining to the official purposes of the State.
Meanwhile, it was also addressed that there will be a continuance of usage of the English language, in addition to Hindi, as Section 4-B was inserted for the same ordaining translation of the authoritative texts in English to be introduced in the House of Legislature of the state.
Furthermore, Section 6 of the Act, confers that “nothing in the act debars any person to submit a representation for the redress of any grievance to any officer or authority of the State in any of the languages used in the State”.
Thus, the question emerges that how the government can arbitrarily impose Hindi as the sole official language to be used in courts of the State?
Stand taken by the government
The state government amended Section 3 of the Act which confers “‘the state government may by notification specify and Hindi shall be the language to be used for all official purposes of the State”.
The amended act now came to be known as The Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2020. It inserted section 3A which reads that all work shall be done in the Hindi language in Civil as well as Criminal Courts. Under the clause (2), the state government shall provide the requisite infrastructure and training of staff within six months for the commencement of the Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2020.
RATIONALES OF THE DECLARATION BY THE STATE AND ITS CITIZENS
During the court proceedings, it has been said that the litigants in the State of Haryana weren’t able to discern the writing in affidavits due to intensive usage of English in courts. They had to entirely depend on the advocates solely on a trust basis which further leads to deceitful matters pending before the courts. Majorly, the general public of Haryana converses in Hindi as despite being an economically advanced state with a lead as an industrial hub, the state is still socially backward in terms of relationship with the English language.
According to the government, it received demand letters from MLAs, Advocates wherein they had conveyed their concern to proclaim Hindi as the official language of the State in congruence with the concerns of citizens so that both can understand the entire judicial process in their own language.
Amidst this two-sided concern, the government arbitrarily overlooked the concern of the third category of people associated with a legal background and future judicial aspirants who also encompassed as a part of society carrying the same larger interest of concern.
CONCERNS OF ADVOCATES AND JUDICIAL ASPIRANTS
The mandatoriness of a specific language at certain platforms has its own adverse sides. It reflects implicit discrimination on the basis of language which ultimately becomes an unjust law in the eyes of justice. With the imposition of a sole language, novel entrants to the legal profession as well as the legal professionals working presently in Haryana with their proficiency in another language especially English, which also covers the entire judicial work in high courts and the Supreme Court, will likely to face many difficulties pertaining to translation as well as switching the learning process to another language followed by an abrupt proclamation by the State.
MUTUAL FACET OF UTMOST CONTEMPLATION
Law is a matter of statements and logical reasons under which any type of language does not play a significant role in administering justice. Justice has no language. It is just a matter of arrangement of words of a particular language to make a logical legal argument. Hence, governments or any other authority cannot restrict the legal work with the sole language. The flexibility is the need of the hour in place of rigidity amidst delays in the administration of justice. There is a wide possibility of being incapacitated in arguing the cases entirely in Hindi by the majority of lawyers who aren’t fluent in Hindi. The imposition would result in an unfair division between legal professionals who are fluent in Hindi and those who are not.
The amendment violates Article 14, the right to equality by discriminating the work process on the basis of language. Considering the unnecessary workload of translation and then delivering the arguments to the courts will violate the right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It is pertinent to infer that courts are a medium of justice under which lawyers, advocates and judges work accordingly to aid in serving justice to people. The arguments, testimonies put forth by lawyers act as a germane and deciding facet for the entire process of justice. Thus, a facilitative environment must be provided to them so that the frame of focus should be towards quality and speedy justice.
Considering the viewpoints of legal professionals as well as the general public in Haryana, it is to be postulated that the judiciary should respect the integrity of every individual irrespective of language and its usage in the court proceedings. Despite having a multi-lingual system, the battle is between the usage of Hindi and English only.
Thus, it is to be postulated that before initiating the court proceedings, lawyers, as well as Judges, should look after the comfort of the litigant. As both the entities work for the litigant to serve justice, deliberation around reciprocation of testimonies and other legal formalities to be performed in what language should be addressed beforehand. Rather than imposing sole language, this mutual undertaking will lead to transparency and acceptance in the judicial process.
On the basis of Census 2011, Hindi is the language of less than 44 per cent Indians. Moreover, only 25 per cent of Indians regarded Hindi as their mother tongue. But there have been persisting push by certain legislations for making Hindi as a sole national language under a euphemism of One nation, One identity.
India is a land of diversity and thus the notion of mandating one sole language will ultimately violate the pillars of multiculturalism and multilingualism. Furthermore, Article 343 of the Indian Constitution specifies Hindi written in Devanagari script as the official language of the government along with English.
Therefore, it is requested that all legal professionals in the State of Haryana should be permitted to work in English as well. The conventional process of translation should be continued for both litigants and legal community in the face of linguistic diversity. Assuring mutual respect for every individual’s rights should be the grundnorm of a secular country.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harshita Sharma is currently pursuing BA LLB (Hons) from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. Her research interests include Criminal Law and Human Rights Law.