This article on Analysis of the Haryana Official Language Amendment Act, 2020 is written by Ashutosh Rajput. A student of 1st year at Hidayatullah National Law University Raipur. The recent amendment in the act has several features to know.
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On 5th March 2020, the Haryana State legislature passed a bill named Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2020 which amended Haryana Official Language Act, 1969 (herein referred to as ‘HOLA’) and incorporated section 3A into it. The said section makes it compulsory for subordinate courts; (criminal and civil respectively) of Punjab and Haryana High Court, tribunals; and revenue court constituted under the state government to work in the Hindi language.
The section also incorporated that, within six months of the commencement of this act; the state government will provide requisite infrastructure and training staff. This amendment came in light by considering that the majority of the spectators cannot understand English; and remains mum throughout the proceeding. The government of Haryana also seeks to implement working in the Hindi language before the High Court as well. Currently, the said amendment is being challenged before the Supreme Court. It is worth noting that the official language of Haryana is Hindi; and the second official language is Punjabi and English.
Background of this development:
Indian is a country of diverse language, of such languages, Hindi is widely spoken and given utmost importance. And in 1966 the Punjab and Haryana were separated on a linguistic basis; wherein Haryana took ‘Hindi’ as their official language. Section 2 of HOLA defines Hindi as ‘Hindi in Devanagari script’. Schedule 8 of the constitution of India also incorporated Hindi out of 22 other languages. According to the 2011 language census, about 43.63% of the total population said their mother tongue was Hindi; though it is not India’s official language.
The main contention of the Haryana government was that; it would make citizens understand the process of the judiciary and will encourage them to put their views on it. Before the said amendment, Hindi was mandatory but not compulsory due to which; litigants prefer to work in the English language. The act has been amended 3 times first in 1972; second in 1973 and the third in 2004 respectively, prior to this amendment.
Why it has been criticized?
The validity of the said amendment has been challenged by five lawyers on the ground that; it is ‘arbitrary’ in nature and it initiated unreasonable classification between Hindi and non-Hindi speaking advocates. It has also been criticized as it was implemented without the consultation of the High Court.
Salient features of this Amendment:
HOLA was enacted just after the Union legislation known as the Official Language Act, 1963; while the later one has the provision that English will be considered as an additional language besides Hindi. Though HOLA has in total of 8 sections, still it has wider power with respect to the language implementation. Section 4-B states that any bill presented before the state legislature should be accompanied by a translator.
Every state has its respective Language Act, for instance; Chhattisgarh Official Amendment Act, 1957; Uttar Pradesh Official Language Act, 1951, etc.
Plea in Supreme Court by the petitioners:
- Precluding the use of the English language before the subordinate court has no legal rationale; whilst English is extensively spoken language.
- Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India has been struck down due to this development.
- It would be wrong to say that all the lawyers in the Haryana are fluent in English; and in this field, advanced proficiency is required.
- Haryana is being considered as an industrial hub where various people from several states; as well as several countries indulge to carry out their business and pertaining to this; it can be concluded that the majority of people would not know or is not fluent in Hindi.
- The six months’ time period which is given in view that under this period; the lawyers become well versed with Hindi is totally wrong. One can learn and understand Hindi but to master it with fluency will definitely take time.
Arguments in favour of this Act:
- It will encourage to use Hindi in day to day life.
- U.P. government had implemented this way back and now the judicial system is well versed with ‘Hindi’; and the same view is taken by Haryana.
- If one litigant is well versed with English and the Other is well versed with Hindi then under such circumstances; the arguments will not be considered as fruitful as it would go the very nature of consensus ad idem.
- The party will get justice in less time in their language.
Haryana’s per capita income is almost twice that of India and ranks 5th in Net State Domestic Product; hence Haryana is the economically forward state but still, it is socially backward. Though the literacy rate of Haryana is 80% still the bulk of them do not understand the English language; therefore, they don’t implement it. Section 273 of the Criminal Procedure Code; also has a provision that the evidence should be taken in the presence of the accused; and it will be irrational if the accused itself does not know what has been recorded.
Article 346 and 347 enshrines that the State legislature may adopt one or more languages. Article 348 deals with the language to be used in the court of law; wherein (2) empowers the Governor of the state to use Hindi; or any other language for the purpose of the state with the prior consultation of the President.
The implementation of the amendment may not soothe various law practitioner’s as they came from an English background; as in the majority of the cases law schools comply with delivering; and exposing the law to the students in the English language; it would be irrational from their perspective to comply with Hindi. But considering the majority of the population, literacy with respect to the English language is not much, therefore; the step taken by the Haryana’s legislative assembly was of prudent nature. And more emphasis should be put in the law schools to make students understand both the languages; as the majority of the other states still carry out proceedings in Hindi.
It should be noted that Abraham Lincoln once said that; “democracy is of the people, for the people, by the people”; and the court of law is no exception to democracy. The Haryana’s legislature in terms of democracy took a great decision; and it will take time to get wholly implemented on the lines of Section 3A of the Amendment Act. The author is of the view that Hindi should be considered as optional for few years; as it will take time to gain expertise in it; and soon after gaining expertise the same should be implemented without any further delay.
There are several states like Arunachala Pradesh, Meghalaya; which should also implement this act by considering the Haryana’s act as precedence. However, the validity of the said act will be decided by the Supreme Court to decide; whether it is justified or not. But still, the use of English should be at the discretion of the parties.
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