The State of Haryana vide notification, dated 11th May 2020, notified that 'Hindi' should be used in all Courts and Tribunals of Haryana. The State of Haryana amended section 3 of The Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1969. This Act is now called The Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The Haryana cabinet earlier, in the first week of May, had approved introduction of Hindi language in subordinate courts of the State. The legislative assembly had passed the Bill to pave way for implementation of the decision. Seventy-eight MLAs, the Advocate General and hundreds of advocates, had expressed their interest to get Hindi language authorised for use in the courts so that the citizens of Haryana can understand the entire process as it will be in their own language and it will also enable them to easily put their views before the Courts.
The relevant portion of amendment is reproduced as under:
After section 3 of the Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1969, the following section shall be inserted namely:
"3-A. Use of Hindi in Courts and Tribunals:- (1) In all Civil Courts and Criminal Courts in Haryana subordinate to the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, all revenue Courts and Rent Tribunals or any other court or tribunal constituted by the State Government, work shall be done in Hindi language.
(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.
Explanation:-For the purpose of this section, the words 'Civil Court' and Criminal Courts' shall have the same as respectively assigned to them in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Central Act 5 of 1908) and the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973 (Central Act 2 of 1974)".
Earlier the section 3 of the Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1969, read as under:
Section 3. Official language for official purposes of State: — (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, Hindi shall, as from the appointed day, be the first language to be used for all official purpose of the State of Haryana except such purposes as the State Government may, by notification, specify and the language in use for such excepted purposes immediately before the appointed day may be used as official language for such purposes.
(2) The State Government may, by notification, specify that Punjabi shall be the second language to be used for all such official purposes which the State Government may deem fit.
It is true that the State has power to adopt the language that is to be used in all of its official works including judicial proceedings. Even the Civil and Criminal Code mandates that the State can decide the language to be used in all courts save the High Court. The argument by Haryana state in support of Hindi language to be used in judicial work is that most of the litigants cannot understand English and they remain mute spectator throughout the judicial proceedings which is basically for or against them.
I, as a rustic Haryanvi (where speaking even pure Hindi is work of great audacity) and as an alumuni of Faculty of law, University of Delhi ( where Law is chewed in English and only English) have dared to write this article amid chaos of Hindi- English struggle.
Before going into the complexity of use of Hindi/English language in subordinate courts in Haryana, it is necessary to look at the life of a normal law student ( or even a teacher), from Hindi speaking belt, and specially from the State of Haryana, in some of the top law schools of India. Faculty of Law, Delhi University is considered as an Institute of eminence( well before Govt tagged it formally) due to its multi-linguistic and multi-cultural approach to legal education. Students from all walks of life and from more or less all the Sates get admission in this Institute (thanks to reservation policy of India).
But even after the multi-linguistic face of Institution, it is subdivided in two groups of English speaking and Hindi medium students.
Law is a matter of reason based on logic and given circumstances and therefore language as such does not play any significant role. There is not even a direct relationship between wisdom and language.
Now, after the notification of Haryana Government, which made Hindi as the mandatory language to be used in Judicial work, I noticed mixed reactions of people on ground. The non legal community of Haryana, barring a few, seemed happy as they think that the participation of litigants will be more realistic now. The legal fraternity of Haryana is further subdivided into those who are well versed with English or alma matter of some eminent law colleges and those who use English hesitantly. The English speaking lawyers (which are really very few in subordinate courts of Haryana) have criticised the decision of the State Government.
Let's discuss the reaction and mood of these groups who favour or disfavour this decision of Haryana Government. The favour or disfavour seemed purely due to their vested interests and hardly any sane voice came forward for larger interests of society, when the author interviewed such groups on this subject matter.
General Public of Haryana:
It is true that Haryana is an economically forward State of India with the second highest per capita income after Goa. But it is equally true that this State is also socially backward. Every Haryanvi, who has been brought up in Haryana, has a very terse relation with English ( Thanks to Government schools of State). Every person even those who may have graduated from Oxford or Harvard University are bound to have a touch of dialect, if he or she spent a few years of his/ her childhood in Haryana ( ignore Gurgaon or Faridabad city).
The common men want their participation in day-to-day official work including court proceedings. This participation is not real if they are not familiar with the language used in documents. Literacy rate in Haryana is around 80 percent, but majority of them don't know how to read, speak or understand English. In such a scenario, expecting the commoner's involvement in governance is laughable and ridiculous. For a single application in the court, they have to run from pillar to post or to hire an advocate after paying a fair amount of money.
The argument forwarded by commoners favouring Hindi is that they won't feel alien in their own country, if Hindi is made the language for usage in offices.
Ramesh Dhaka, a farmer and litigant in Distt Court Jhajjar (a district of Haryana) expressed his pain."I am ten plus two pass, but cannot understand or read English. All the summons, applications , vakaltnama come in English which I can't read. I have to rush either to an advocate or any other well educated person of the village. If it comes in Hindi, I can deal with it myself." Ramesh said.
If Hindi is made the language of Courts then it may help the commoners to a great extent. A few hurdles faced by litigants in State of Haryana due to English language in courts are:
1. They can't understand what is written in plaints or other documents. They have to remain dependent wholly on their pleaders.
2. During the court proceedings, they fail miserably to understand what is taken on record as evidence for or against them.
3. In criminal proceedings the provisions like sec 273 of CrPC, which mandates that evidence should be taken in presence of an accused, becomes futile and redundant when the accused cannot understand what kind of evidences are recorded against him.
4. Due to the unfamiliarity with English language, a litigant is forced to deal with an advocate purely on the basis of trust. They can't read what is written in Vakaltnama or in affidavit which they have signed as per the instructions of their advocate. Many cases are pending in Bar Council about misconduct of advocates with client on charge of deception by former.
5. It becomes more difficult for litigants when the advocates argue in English in court rooms ( though rarely in Haryana) as they have no other options left but to remain mute.
6. Copies of Judgments and Orders are in English and hence they fail to understand the reasoning or rational of judgments or orders and have to depend on advocates only.
7. Witnesses in the case also suffer due to this language issue as most of them do not know English. What has been recorded for them, they cannot get to know verbatim.
8. Many documents which are in Hindi, in order to be taken on record, have to be translated in English. This exercise is also not necessary if Hindi language is adopted for all judicial work.
Advocates of Subordinate Courts in Haryana:
When I discussed the linguistic change in court with the practicing advocates in Haryana, a large chunk was inclined in favour of Hindi with the rider that it should be in High court also.
" We have been segregated from the lawyers practicing in High court merely because we can't argue in English, how so ever rational legal argument we raise. This is utter discrimination on the basis of language and it is unconstitutional" Rohtash Malik, an advocate from Distt Court in Rohtak, expressed his pain.
A number of advocates who have put a fair amount of time in litigation got experience of framing their case in English and they are now comfortable with English in due course of time. The issue arises with young lawyers and new entrants in profession. They have to invest time to understand the language of suit/ proceedings instead of understanding the legality or technicalities of a case. Though, most law colleges in Haryana offer LLB degree with medium of instruction in English but the lectures and teacher- student interaction happen in Hindi. They feel more comfortable with Hindi. During college days also an invisible pressure of English can be seen on students of such colleges. This pressure invites inferiority complex. Many a times, I face people on social media asking very blunt question whether a student of Hindi medium can qualify the State judicial examination. Such questions take birth only because of their fear of English language and their acceptance that English speaking lawyers are comparatively better than others.( though this is not true).
Some of the issues which a Hindi speaking lawyers face due to English as the language of court are enumerated as:
1. Medium of instruction in law colleges of Haryana is mostly English, but the teaching occurs in Hindi blended with Haryanvi. Students can understand it but they hesitate to speak which ultimately impact their careers adversely in English dominant world of judiciary.
2. Many students of Haryana earn their law degree from little known law colleges from adjacent State of Rajasthan, where language of instruction is Hindi. In legal education, certain terms are quite different in different language and it is difficult for a student to use them interchangeably in different language.
For example the terms 'Res-judicata' and 'injunction' are called 'Purvnirniyat' and 'Parmadesh' in Hindi respectively. What a Hindi medium student learns during the years of his graduation, he is forced to unlearn all of that in court practice. This forced adoption of a new language demotivates such young lawyers, whose only fault is that they couldn't get an opportunity to learn a foreign language.
3. The new entrants in such courts failed to hone their skills in law as compared to their counter parts elsewhere because they have to invest much of their times in learning the legal language in English.
4. Most of the judicial officers join the service after passing the herculean three staged examination named "Haryana Judicial Service Examination." The exam is conducted in English. The language of interview is English mandatorily. This means, all judicial officers (a fair chunk of them belongs to other State) enter in service only if they are well versed with English as a language. During proceedings in court, just judicial officer fail to understand the pain of Hindi speaking pleaders and lawyer equally fail to gain the empathy of judicial officers.
5. One more issue which the author noticed while speaking with lawyers of Hindi medium is their aspirations to become a judge.
" We do LLB only to do litigation, hardly any thought comes to our mind to sit in exam of Haryana judicial service, as this is reserved predominantly for English medium students ,said Anil Rana a lawyer who passed his LLB in 2017 from a local law college from Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. A ten minute conversation with advocate Rana was ample for author to figure out his legal acumen which was positively in his favour. But he even cannot think to appear for judicial examination and here again culprit is the English language.
6. Some very trivial but important and practical issues like work of law clerks ( Munshi in local language) sitting in front of Chambers of lawyers in every court complex is also influenced greatly by the language of courts. In subordinate courts in Haryana, only a few Munshi are know how to type the documents in English and due to this they have unchallenged hegemony and monopoly in market. Other Munshis type the documents like sale agreement and documents of like nature in which the language of content is optional unlike plaints.
The inferiority complex in the tone of Rammehar, a Munshi, in court premise of Charkhi Dadri (District of Haryana) could easily be noticed when he said "This document can only be typed by Bade Babu'" when the author offered him to type a document in English.
For sure, language decides the fate, destiny and career for most in court but for people of this income group, it ends up deciding their wages and ultimately their livings.
English speaking lawyer cum judicial service aspirants:
If any class is most furious about the notification of Haryana dated 11 May 2020 regarding Hindi to be used as court language , then it is the coterie of English Speaking lawyers (and mostly those who see their future as judicial officer in Haryana). For them the concern is manifold and to an extent their concerns are genuine.
This class of lawyers cum judicial service aspirants consider themselves 'elite' among others. They have graduated from top law colleges of India like NLUs, Jindal University, Delhi University and many such other Institutes of like eminence ( a few in Haryana and rest elsewhere in India). They actually are not concerned about their careers in litigation in subordinate courts of Haryana, because they consider litigation in such courts to be hay and tasteless. They are not much bothered about the fact that how Hindi or English language impact lives of the common litigants in the State.
Their real fear is how they will deal with Hindi if they are selected in Judicial Service. Moreover , they are also scared of this fact that the change of language in Subordinate Courts will ultimately change the exam pattern (inclusion of Hindi as optional language in main and interview) which will increase the competition and challenge their hegemony in the subject field. Such students pay a hefty amount of fees in coaching Institutes in Delhi for getting selected in Haryana judicial services.
After Delhi judicial service exam, if any other judicial service exam which is considered to be difficult, then it is none other than Haryana as questions asked are of application based and the judicial mind of candidates is being tested Such students want English to remain as the official language of court. Author talked to several such lawyers cum students who expressed their concerns about the sudden change of court language in Haryana.
The points of concern oozed out from this class of lawyers are summarised below:
1. Students who have studied the entire syllabus in English particularly find law subjects to be genuinely difficult in switching to any other language over night. As I cited above, legal language is specific in nature and specific terms are used for specific events, and therefore to learn and memorise thousands of such terms in other language is a herculean task for the already burdened lawyers/judicial aspirants.
2. Such students are always made scapegoat with the change of regime due to no fault of their own. The education set up of country is English oriented. The High Court and Supreme Court do not allow Hindi language even in verbal arguments, forget about the content of plaints or any documents to be applied in these constitutional courts. In such scenario, how can anyone expect students to do their law degrees in Hindi medium because they want to appear in a State judicial examination.
3. The State Government vide notification referred above has promised to provide all the resources within six months like translators etc to make the judicial officers and other staff competent to use Hindi language in Judicial work. Though it is not impossible for a Judge or Magistrate to write a judgment in Hindi, but it requires a long and constant training. This will unnecessarily enhance the burden of pending cases in court.
4. It is a well known fact that all the books (particularly of science and law) available in markets are written in English. It is hard to expect that Woodroffe and Amir Ali for Evidence law or Mulla for Civil Procedure Code would be available in Hindi. A lawyer or a judge will have to read the text in English and then will have to translate it in Hindi to express it in their pleadings or judgments. In the interpretation of law, a single 'comma' or a word is sufficient to change the meaning of entire law. Hence it will hamper the judicial work adversely.
5.The judicial work in Supreme Court and High court is still in English. Various orders and judgments of subordinate courts are challenged in these courts. In those circumstances, these orders or judgments are translated again. The translation has its own drawbacks and at various occasions create confusion between two forum of law.
Lawyer and litigant in Commercialised Districts of Haryana:
In Haryana, the districts of Faridabad and Gurgaon are highly commercialised. This boom of Commercialisation came after 1991 when Indian Economy was opened for the entire world. These two cities of Haryana took a new shape during that period and now they have established themselves on the world map. Gurgaon is a millennial city of India having thousands of official headquarters of different national and international MNCs. Commerce gives birth to conflict of interests which ultimately creates dispute. When we come to dispute resolution mechanism then it is only possible through courts or arbitrations. So in a court where the parties are from different nations then use of Hindi predominantly in such courts will create a kind of reverse discrimination with this class of people.
As of now, Haryana Government has not made any exception or reservation about these two districts in which massive numbers of foreign companies are involved in commercial litigation or arbitration. Hence in these circumstances, it may be presumed that the amendment regarding mandatory use of Hindi shall be applicable in cities of Gurgaon and Faridabad. Hurdles that Hindi speaking Litigants or lawyers face in courts due to English language are similar to the problems faced by Litigants/ lawyers of these two cities.
One more concern, which the State Government did not address properly is the impact of this sudden change of language on lawyers/ Litigants from other States. In all districts of Haryana and particularly in Gurgaon and Faridabad, a large numbers of migrant employees (skilled or unskilled) visit these cities. Many lawyers also get settled in these courts. How they will cope with this change? A lawyer or an employee from Tamil Nadu working in a software firm in Gurgaon will face a new dimension of challenge. So the Litigants or lawyers from other States also cannot cheer upon this hasty decision of State Government.
Haryana is primarily a Hindi speaking State whose 100% population speaks or understand Hindi. Abraham Lincoln , the sixteenth president of United States of America, had rightly said that democracy is of the people, for the people and by the people. Democracy is not any Institution rather it is the smooth functioning of a conglomeration of Institutions. Courts are one of such Institutions which are very much important and relevant part of any democracy as a whole. It is pertinent to understand that courts are for the people and the people are not for courts. Neither the courts are for lawyers nor for judges or magistrates. The courts are a medium of justice in the interest of society and generally for public at large. Lawyers and judges can be medium of justice and not the justice in themselves. Therefore the argument which is germane to this discourse is that for the courts, the interest of public should be supreme and paramount.In Haryana if the language of judicial works is mandated to be Hindi by a notification referred above, then the interest of general public should be taken into consideration. All the remaining contentions in favour of different categories of lawyers and judges died then and there.
But, it does not mean that the other significant points raised by different group of people lost its relevancy. Some may blame the State Government that the decision was taken in haste without the consultation of the High Court. It is true that many lacunae and bottlenecks are present in our system and it is not full proof. It is a matter of time to see how effectively this decision of Government is implemented and how will it effect the life of common litigants. Moreover, the Judicial system is dependent on lawyers and judges, a conducive environment should be provided to them for the smooth functioning of courts. The sudden change in language, surely will create hurdles to some persons including lawyers and Judges and hence these hurdles should be taken care of at the earliest. An overhaul revamp in medium of instruction is the need of hour as per the requirement of a particular State in consonance with the constitutional courts. The author suggests that instead of imposing Hindi language on some undesirable public officers, a mid way can be made out and Hindi may be made optional language for first few years. It is also suggested that willing judges and lawyers should be permitted to work in English but the translated copies in Hindi may be provided to litigants free of cost.
It is also suggested that the exam pattern for judicial services should be bi-lingual (Hindi and English) and no language should get weightage over the others. This will invite more talent and a healthy competition will develop.
At the end, the efforts of State, courts, lawyers, law officers and Judicial officers should be focused towards providing quality and speedy justice to public because ultimately the objective is-service to the latter and not the former.
Views Are Personal Only.