The Supreme Court has stayed a judgment of Madhya Pradesh High Court that held that the Hindi version of enactment will prevail if there is a variation in its Hindi version and English version.
Assailing the judgment of the division bench of the high court, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhawan contended before a bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan that in Park Leather Industry Pvt. Ltd. Vs. State of U.P. & Ors., it is very clearly laid down that if there is a variation in Hindi version and English version of a particular enactment, it is the English version which is to be prevailed.
The division bench headed by Chief Justice Hemant Sharma, in a judgment delivered in May, had held that the language of the state being Hindi and the Act having been passed in Hindi, the English version of such text in Hindi is an act of the Executive, which will not prevail over the legislation enacted by the state legislature in Hindi.
The bench had observed: “The bills are introduced in Hindi, passed in Hindi and assented to by the Hon’ble Governor. The language of the bill is in Hindi. In terms of Article 348, the translation is required to be published in English language under the authority of the Hon’ble Governor in the official gazette, which is deemed to be an authoritative text in the English language. Thus, the authoritative text prepared in terms of sub-clause (3) of Article 348 is not an authoritative text discussed and resolved by the State Legislature, but is an action performed by the Executive in exercise of the administrative powers of the State. The English version is not discussed by the State Legislature. Therefore, the Act has been passed in Hindi which is a Legislative action whereas the authoritative text in English is an Executive action. Therefore, in case of conflict between the two, the Legislative enactment will prevail rather than an Executive action of translation though published under the authority of the Hon’ble Governor.”
The high court, while taking this view, had referred to an old Allahabad High Court judgment in Haji Lal Mohammad Biri Works Vs. Sales Tax Officer that examined Article 348(1) to hold that English version of an Act in the State of Uttar Pradesh has merely a status of an authoritative text in the original text and that in case of conflict, Hindi version would prevail.
The bench also noted that the said judgment in Haji Lal Mohammad Biri Works (supra) was approved by the constitution bench in a judgment rendered in M/s JK Jute Mills Company Limited Vs. The State of UP.
Park Leather case
In Park Leather, the apex court had held: “Undoubtedly if there is conflict between the two than the English version would prevail. However, if there is no conflict then one can always have the assistance of the Hindi version in order to find out whether the word used in English includes a particular item or not.”