This Article is written by Akshara Verma of Lloyd School of Law, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, an intern under Legal Vidhiya
The research paper investigates the viability of implementing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India. The central argument suggests that introducing Hindi as a mandatory language could potentially create challenges for India’s legal system, which traditionally operates in English. India’s diversity in languages, with over 1,600 spoken tongues, creates the need for a lingual commonality, a role English currently fulfills given its neutrality. Introducing Hindi as a mandatory language might alienate individuals who don’t understand or speak the language fluently, thereby limiting their ability to access justice. It may also compromise the quality and precision of legal proceedings as complex legal terms, primarily sourced from English and Latin, might not have equivalent terms in Hindi. Further, there’s a substantial economic aspect related to translation and training judiciary and staff, not mentioning potential communication confusion and misunderstandings, which could have severe legal implications. Lastly, with English being a globally dominant language, restricting Supreme Court proceedings to Hindi could affect the country’s participation and influence in global legal discourse. Therefore, while promoting regional languages is essential for preserving cultural heritage, introducing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court may be non-feasible.
Linguistic diversity, language bias, difficulty in transition, minorities language, litigants, lawyers, and attracting global Talent.
The recommendation to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India, suggested in the Law Commission’s report 216, faces considerable feasibility issues. Considering India’s linguistic diversity, the introduction of any one language in such a vital institution would raise serious concerns related to inclusivity, effective communication, and equitable access to justice.
Firstly, India, as a multilingual nation, represents hundreds of regional languages, with many citizens lacking proficiency in Hindi. This implies that the enforcement of Hindi as the primary legal language might create a linguistic divide, disproportionately affecting those who are not Hindi speakers. It can cause marginalization and disenfranchisement, ultimately contradicting the spirit of the Constitution, which advocates for equal rights and protection under the law.
Moreover, the practice of law is rooted in precision, requiring clear and effective communication to ensure the best interpretation of laws and the fairest outcomes in legal disputes. As legal terms in Hindi lack standardization and many do not even exist, interpreting the nuances of complex legal arguments would be a substantial challenge.
Lastly, the burden on legal professionals, including judges, advocates, and law students, would be massive. It would necessitate them to develop an extensive proficiency in Hindi, specifically in relation to legal terms and judicial processes, creating unnecessary obstacles and likely increasing the chances of errors.
The Law Commission’s recommendation might be an attempt to bring the judicial process closer to the people by breaking the colonial legacy of English in Indian judiciary. However, it raises significant issues regarding inclusivity, effective communication, and fairness, indicating its non-feasibility. It emphasizes the need for a balanced, multi-lingual approach to legal language policy, upholding the essence of the diverse Indian democracy.
The 18th Law commission of India in its 216th Report on “ Non-Feasibility of introduction of Hindi as compulsory Language in the Supreme Court of India” (2008) has , after detailed discussion with all stake-holders, inter-alia, recommend that the higher judiciary should not be subjected to any kind of even persuasive change in the present social context. The Government has accepted the stand of the Commission.
India is a country marked by incredible linguistic diversity. According to the last census, India is home to more than 1,600 mother tongues. This demonstrates not just the immense diversity of our nation, but also the uniqueness of its regions. The regional languages form a critical part of people’s identities and serve as a source of regional pride.
Recently, there was a proposal to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India. This triggered an intense debate and eventually was met with strong resistance, reflecting the nation’s diverse linguistic demographics. The linguistic variety across India is so vast that imposing a single language as compulsory would naturally cause dissent.
Although Hindi is the most spoken language in India, there are many regions where it’s not spoken at all, such as southern and northeastern states. The imposition of Hindi as a compulsory language would create a significant disadvantage for the people who are not native Hindi speakers.
Considering these factors, the proposal to make Hindi a mandatory language in the Supreme Court was seen as non-feasible. To preserve the integrity and harmony of the nation, it’s crucial that the courts respect and uphold the linguistic diversity of India, and not impose any one language upon the citizens. In this way, India continues to stand strong and unified amidst its vast linguistic diversity.
Potential of language bias
The debate over language has always been a prominent issue in India’s diversified sociopolitical sphere. One of the notable examples was the debate around introducing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India. However, due to its non-feasibility, the idea didn’t materialize. The underlying issue isn’t the introduction of Hindi per se, but the potential of language bias that it would foster.
In a nation like India, which is an amalgamation of various cultures and languages, any move to endorse a single language as mandatory holds the potential of generating language bias, impacting social and political unity. Hindi, though widely spoken, is not the native language of a large population of South India, Northeast, and many other regions. The mandatory imposition might not just pose communication barriers for non-Hindi speakers but could lead to the devaluation of their native languages.
The courtrooms are a space where justice is sought, and language must not become a hindrance to it. Any language preference can indeed influence the interpretation and representation of legal discourse, thereby raising concerns of justice accessibility. Furthermore, it can affect the larger perception about language and its societal importance.
The feasibility of introducing any language in courtrooms should always be measured on the scale of inclusivity, impartiality, and easy comprehensibility. The ideal scenario should promote the simultaneous use of various languages that would facilitate understanding and reduce bias. Thus, maintaining linguistic diversity would resonate with the very idea of ‘Unity in Diversity’ that India stands for.
Difficulty in transition
The recent debate over introducing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India underscores the difficulty of transitioning to a mono-linguistic legal framework. This issue not only reflects India’s inherent linguistic diversity but also brings up legitimate concerns about language inclusivity and fair access to justice.
Imposing Hindi as a compulsory language would undeniably hinder those who are not conversant with the language. Lawyers and litigants across various states of India, where Hindi isn’t the native language, would face language barriers in their pursuit of justice. The underlying fear is that this linguistic transition might translate into a major inconvenience for non-Hindi speakers and impede the legal course.
Furthermore, such a transition may not be feasible owing to practical complexities. Notwithstanding the operational and training challenges that would arise for both bench and bar, it could inadvertently disenfranchise a sizeable population from participating fully in the legal process.
For a nation that is a multilingual mosaic, India should be fostering a sense of inclusion, and the push towards one dominant language contradicts this spirit. Such a move must therefore be subjected to a thorough feasibility analysis, ensuring that no individual’s access to justice is compromised due to linguistic differences. Any compromise on this principle would go against the tenets of natural justice and the essence of the Indian Constitution. Hence, transitioning to Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court appears a monumental task that is fraught with obstacles.
Increase burden on litigants and lawyers
The implementation of Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India has been a topic of hot debate for some time. While some see this as a necessary move towards a more inclusive judiciary, others argue that this might unintentionally escalate the burden on litigation and lawyers. The judicial system of India is deeply entrenched in English. Court proceedings, judgments, petitions, legal documents – all are primarily in English. Consequently, legal education and practice in India are also dominated by the English language. Hence, introducing Hindi as a compulsory language will create an enormous challenge for lawyers, as they would be required to develop proficiency in legal Hindi overnight. This would surely create unnecessary stress and may even hamper their ability to provide effective representation to their clients. Moreover, litigation would be made complex as well. Translation errors can lead to misconstrued judgements. Hence, this idea would place additional strain on an already overwhelmed system, with an escalating pile of pending cases. Furthermore, it might hinder access to justice for non-Hindi speakers.
Compatibility with International law
International law promotes diversity and prohibits discrimination based on language. Therefore, forcing a particular language, like Hindi, as the compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India contradicts international law’s principles. It’s crucial to recognize that India is a multilingual country, with its constitution recognizing 22 official languages. Hence, mandating Hindi in the Supreme Court would violate the linguistic rights of non-Hindi speaking citizens, lawyers, and judges. This potentially alienates a significant proportion of the population who may not be proficient in Hindi, going against the spirit of equality and fair justice that every democratic country aims to achieve. Additionally, implementing Hindi as the compulsory language in Supreme Court can disrupt legal proceedings as India’s legal system, derived from British legal principles, is predominantly based on English. Translating legal terminologies into Hindi could result in misinterpretation and ambiguity, risking the essence of justice delivery. On an international scale, using English as a court language puts India at an advantageous position. English, as a universal language, helps Indian courts interface with international law effectively and facilitates cross-border legal communication. Thus, introducing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court seems impractical and against the principles of international law and fair justice. Rather, it’s more productive to promote multilingualism in legal affairs, reflecting the nation’s rich linguistic diversity.
Impact on minorities language
The introduction of Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India can be seen as problematic due to its impact on minorities, whose native language may not be Hindi. The measure potentially violates the cultural and linguistic rights of minorities in India. As India is a linguistically diverse country, with numerous minority languages spoken by millions of people, the proposal threatens the linguistic identity of many Indians and can hinder their ability to access justice. Minority languages and dialects in India are already struggling for survival and recognition due to Hindi and English dominating most of the professional, educational, and legal arenas. By making Hindi compulsory in the highest court, there’s a risk of undermining the diversity and plurality of India, turning it into a linguistically homogenous society. The use of Hindi may make proceedings in the Supreme Court incomprehensible for litigants who do not understand Hindi, which contradicts the principle of fair trial. It could affect their right to participate in proceedings directly and communicate effectively with their legal representation. Furthermore, it puts lawyers and judges from non-Hindi speaking regions at a disadvantage, reducing the fairness of court proceedings. Making Hindi compulsory is also contrary to the spirit of multilingualism enshrined in the Constitution. As stated in Article 14 and Article 21, equality and justice should prevail, and they must include equal opportunities for all to understand, interpret, and access the law. Therefore, imposing a single language may not serve the larger interest of justice and could compromise the constitutional principles. It is essential that any move regarding language in the judiciary is done keeping India’s linguistic diversity in mind.
Cost of implementation
The implementation of Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India presents significant costs. These costs span beyond mere financial implications, into practicality, efficiency and potentially infriting on the cultural rights of diverse linguistic groups in India. From a financial perspective, training staff and attorneys in the Hindi language, translating current and historical court documents into Hindi, and obtaining resources to maintain Hindi language services can require a massive monetary investment. As legal language is very specific and complex, special training will be needed which incurs additional cost. The practical implications could result in delay and inaccuracy. Judges, attorneys and clerks who are not fluent in Hindi may find it challenging to comprehend and express nuanced legal arguments, causing delays and potentially influencing the outcomes of legal proceedings. Court processes that rely on accurate communication for dispensation of justice could be compromised. The requirement to understand Hindi may prevent many non-Hindi speaking aspirants from becoming lawyers or joining the Supreme Court workforce. This undermines the meritocracy that should be foundational to any professional legal system. It may also infringe on cultural and linguistic rights, as the linguistic diversity of India means not every citizen identifies Hindi as their first language. This could incite social friction and potentially further deepen linguistic divide. Furthermore, the continuous need for interpreters, if necessary, would incur further expenses and increase procedural complexity. It’s not just about the financial investment, but the implications on efficiency, inclusivity and potential divisibility that underline the non-feasibility of implementing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India.
Challenge in Attracting Global Talent
Attracting global talent is a central element in the global competitive edge of nations and companies. In this context, the Non-Feasibility of Introduction of Hindi as a Compulsory Language in the Supreme Court of India might pose a challenge.
India is one of the largest contributors to global professional manpower. To boost the growth of the legal sector and attract global talent, language proficiency becomes a prerequisite. If Hindi becomes compulsory in the Supreme Court, it would impact its global reach. Talent might perceive this as a barrier, particularly for non-Hindi speaking lawyers, and can discourage international firms and practitioners from expanding their businesses into India.
This proposal might compromise India’s ambitions to evolve as a global hub for arbitration. Majority of international arbitrations are conducted in English, considering it’s universal acceptance. Having a non-English medium of operation may significantly undermine the competitiveness of India’s dispute resolution ecosystem.
Moreover, in a multicultural, multilingual country like India, such an imposition can breed language-based exclusions and can give rise to further division.
Thus, making Hindi a compulsory language may disrupt the harmony and equity in India’s Supreme Court and can pose a significant challenge in the quest of globalizing the legal pr
ofession. Therefore, instead of compulsory imposition, nurturing language proficiency and bilingualism could be the key to break the barriers and foster inclusivity, enabling India to sustain the competition in attracting global talent.
Views of Judges, Senior Advocates, High Court Advocates’ Associations on the proposal to amend article 348 of the Constitution of India
The proposal to amend article 348 of the Constitution of India has generated differing views from Judges, Senior Advocates, and High Court Advocates’ Associations.
1. Judges’ Views: Judges usually prefer maintaining the integrity of the Constitution and only supporting amendments when they believe they can improve the delivery of justice. Regarding the amendment of article 348, some judges may favor it if they believe it could streamline court proceedings or offer greater accessibility to justice. However, some could argue that it might undermine the unity and integrity of the legal system, or that such an amendment should not be undertaken lightly or without considerable consultation and there names are Hon’ble Mr. Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, Former Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Mr. Justice S. Natarajan, Hon’ble Mr. Justice K.T. Thomas etc.
2. Senior Advocates’ Views: They typically support measures that could increase efficiency, clarify interpretations, and lead to greater transparency in the law. Thus, their views on amending Article 348 will be determined by how the proposed amendment impacts these aspects. Some senior advocates may view it as an opportunity to update outdated procedures and structures while others could see it as undermining established procedures. The senior Advocate who are not in favour to amend article 348 are Mr. P.P. Rao, Mr. T.L. Viswanatha Iyer, Mr. Vijay Hansaria.
3. High Court Advocates’ Associations Views: As representative bodies, their views would typically reflect a consensus among their members. Depending on the specifics of the amendment proposal, they could support the amendment if it facilitates legal processes, eases case backlogs, or modernizes existing laws. However, if the proposal is viewed as jeopardizing established processes, undermining judicial autonomy or infringing on existing rights, the High Court Advocates’ Associations may express opposition. Some the High court Advocate who are not in favour are A.P. High Court Advocates’ Association and Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association.
It is essential to understand that the proposal’s specific nature, potential implications, and the individual viewpoints of judges, senior advocates, and the associations would heavily influence these views. This response provides general viewpoints; the specific context and specifics of the proposed amendment can result in diverse opinions. A process of open consultation, deliberation, and debate would be crucial to ensure all views are adequately represented and considered.
Provision of constitution related to language
The Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages under the Eighth Schedule. These languages are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
Article 343 of the Indian Constitution states that the official language of India is Hindi, written in the Devanagari script. English is also allowed as an associate official language for the Union of India.
Article 345 of the Indian Constitution allows each state legislature to adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi as the language for all or any of the official purposes of the state.
According to Article 347, the President of India may, on the basis of a demand received, recognize a language not included in the Eighth Schedule, as a language for official use in the state.
Article 348 specifies that the language of the Supreme Court and all high courts of the states shall be English, but the Governor of the State, with the previous consent of the President, may authorize the use of Hindi or any other official language of the State in proceedings of the High Court.
Under Article 350, every person has the right to submit a representation for the redress of grievances to any officer or authority in the State in any of the languages used in the Union or in the State.
These provisions emphasize the multilingual character of India and highlight the constitution’s aim of protecting the cultural and linguistic rights of all sections of the Indian population.
Recommendation by Law Commission
The Law Commission of India, in its 216th report, has detailed its perspective on the proposed implementation of Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India. After evaluating all potential factors and consequences, the commission found this initiative to be non-feasible.
The report expresses several reasons for this conclusion. Firstly, the Commission opines that there might be linguistic disparities that could hinder the application of Hindi in legal proceedings. Most significantly, the Commission identified the heterogeneous linguistic backgrounds of the citizens as a key obstacle. While Hindi is spoken widely across several states, India is also home to myriad regional languages and dialects. The linguistic diversity across various states and union territories creates significant barriers to the exclusive use of Hindi in the Supreme Court.
Further, the Law Commission highlights the difficulty of accurately translating complex legal terminologies and expressions from English to Hindi. Owing to the vast linguistic and cultural differences, nuances may get lost in translation, resulting in potential misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Additionally, changing the existing court language could add another layer of difficulty for the lawyers, affecting the ease and efficiency of court proceedings. The panel further expressed concerns that a transition to Hindi might make India less attractive as a jurisdiction for foreign entities or non-resident Indians who would be more comfortable with proceedings conducted in English.
In consideration of India’s historical use of English as a judicial language, the commission indicates that English has developed as a primary medium of instruction and a functional language in most legal and educational institutions. Hence, to change the medium of instruction in legal matters abruptly to Hindi would bring numerous challenges.
Furthermore, the Commission contended that this reform would potentially jeopardize India’s relations with other common law jurisdictions, where English is predominantly used as the medium of instruction.
Hence, based on the consideration of various significant factors such as language disparities, cultural variations, complexity in translating legal terminologies, and potential impacts on foreign relations, the Law Commission concluded that the introduction of Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court is not feasible.
After considering various factors such as the linguistic diversity, impact on minorities language, and compatibility with international law, it is evident that introducing Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India is unfeasible. In a country that boasts of speaking more than 1600 languages and dialects, imposition of one language could be seen as discriminatory and unconstitutional. Moreover, the translation process from English, the current language of instruction, to Hindi could result in misunderstanding and misinterpretation of complex legal terminologies. It could potentially impede the functioning of the legal system which necessitates precise articulation. In addition, considering the fact that many high courts use regional languages for their proceedings, implementing Hindi in the Supreme Court may affect the consistent interpretation of law throughout the country. Hence, English, with its neutrality and worldwide acceptance, should remain as the primary language of the judiciary. It is a symbol of
unity in the face of diversity. This doesn’t disregard the importance of regional languages, but maintains fairness and equality. Any hasty linguistic imposition would undermine the pluralistic fabric of India and disturb the peaceful coexistence of its various linguistic groups. In conclusion, while it is crucial to respect and recognize all languages, adopting Hindi as a compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India is impractical, may cause complications, and has the potential to instigate divisions.
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