Dec 15, 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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