Language should not be an obstacle for justice seekers

May 02, 2022 | 06:17 IST

Language should not be an obstacle for justice seekers

Stressing the need to encourage the use of local and regional languages ​​in the courts as a large part of the country’s population finds it difficult to understand the judicial process, procedures and court decisions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that such a decision would help the common man relate to justice.

A few days earlier, the Chief Minister, Dr. Pramod Sawant had spoken of promoting the use of Konkani in the courts of Goa.

India has ‘official languages’ at state and central levels, but there is no single ‘national language’. Hindi is the official language of central government in India, with English as the provisional official sub-language. The legislatures of each state can adopt any regional language as the official language of that state. In later remarks on the Prime Minister’s suggestion, India’s Chief Justice NV Ramana said it cannot be done “suddenly” but “over a period of time I think it will happen”. He added that this was a serious issue and it would take some time to implement it, citing that there were a lot of obstacles, bottlenecks, hiccups in the implementation implementation of regional languages ​​in the High Courts.

The Chief Justice of India also mentioned that the time has come for the legal system to introduce local languages ​​in the courts. Justice Ramana, who was speaking at the joint conference of chief ministers of all states and chief justices of high courts at the Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi, said the practice of law in constitutional courts should be based on intelligence and understanding of the law. , and not mere mastery of the language. He also reiterated that he has received several representations for the introduction of local languages ​​in the proceedings before the High Courts. Courts have used English as their primary language since the British era. “I think the time has come to review the request and bring it to a logical conclusion. The practice of law before the Constitutional Courts should be based on intelligence and understanding of the law and not on mere mastery of the language “, said the Chief Justice of India. mentioned.

He said he was a strong proponent of “Indianizing the justice system”. By Indianization, he meant to increase accessibility by shaping the system according to the needs and sensitivities of the Indian population. It calls for inclusiveness, access to justice, removal of language barriers, reforms in practices and procedures, infrastructure development, filling vacancies, increasing the strength of power judicial.

Article 346 of the Indian Constitution recognizes Hindi in the “Devanagiri” script as the official language of the Union government. The Constitution also permits the continued use of the English language for official purposes. Section 345 provides constitutional recognition as “official languages” of the Union of any language adopted by a state legislature as the official language of that state. Until the 21st Amendment to the Constitution in 1967, the country recognized fourteen official regional languages. The Eighth Schedule and the 71st Amendment provided for the inclusion of Sindhi, Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali, bringing the number of official regional languages ​​of India to 18. The individual states, whose borders are mostly drawn on lines sociolinguistics, are free to decide their own language for internal administration and teaching. In 2004, the government elevated Tamil to the newly created official status of a “classical language”, followed by Sanskrit in 2005.

The Constitution of India now recognizes 23 languages, spoken in different parts of the country. These consist of English plus 22 Indian languages ​​which are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmir, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Meitei, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. While Hindi is an official language of the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and National Capital Territory of Delhi, Tamil is an official language of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andaman. Nicobar Islands. English is the co-official language of the Union of India, and each of the many states mentioned above may also have another co-official language.

The Indian court system mainly uses British-era English as the primary language for arguments in court and delivery of the order. In judicial matters, language matters for those who seek and render justice. It is also a matter of great importance to those who are required to implement the Court’s orders. Normally, the local or regional language is considered easy to understand and requires less intervention by translators. Any initiative aimed at integrating the local or regional language into the judicial function will surely help to understand justice seekers more easily and the language barrier will be definitely broken.

Elna M. Lemons