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Bombay HC Dismisses Petition Challenging Validity Of The Official Languages Act 1963 [Read Judgment]

Nitish Kashyap
17 March 2020 12:18 PM GMT
Bombay HC Dismisses Petition Challenging Validity Of The Official Languages Act 1963 [Read Judgment]
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The Bombay High Court has dismissed a petition filed by two societies, Rashtrabhasha Mahasangh and Mumbai Rashtriya Rashtrabhasha Prachar Sabha praying to declare the Official Language Act, 1963 unconstitutional or in the alternate to quash and set aside Section 3(5) of the said act as unconstitutional.

Division bench of Acting Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice NR Borkar held that nothing was unconstitutional in the Official Language Act or any of its provisions.

Section 3(5) of the said act states -

"The provisions of clause (a) of sub-section (1), and the provisions of sub-section (2), sub-section (3) and sub-section (4) shall remain in force until resolutions for the discontinuance of the use of the English language for the purposes mentioned therein have been passed by the Legislatures of all the States which have not adopted Hindi as their official language and until after considering the resolutions aforesaid, a resolution for such discontinuance has been passed by each House of Parliament."

Advocate VV Khemka appeared on behalf of the petitioner societies and its office bearers, whereas Advocates DA Dube and NR Prajapati for the Union of India through Department of Official Languages, Ministry of Home Affairs.

Khemka argued that the subject of official language is deliberately not included in Seventh Schedule and, therefore, does not form part of scheme commencing from Article 246 onwards upto Article 254 of the Constitution of India.

The object (of Official languages Act) is to establish Hindi language in Devnagari script as official language within 15 years and, therefore, a breathing time has been permitted in Sub-Article (2) of Article 343. Continuation of the Official Languages Act, 1963 for the last 57 years is, therefore, contrary to Article 343, Khemka submitted.

Furthermore, it was contended that Section 3(5) which, in effect, continued use of English language for the purposes of Chapter-I gives primacy to legislatures of all States and this treatment or primacy is unconstitutional as State or its legislatures must have no role in affairs of the Union.

Requirement of a resolution of legislatures of all States to discontinue English is, therefore, against the spirit of Chapter-I of Part XVII, Khmeka said.

Union of India's counsel submitted that separate treatment given to official language in Part XVII itself militates with the arguments advanced by the petitioners. He also relied upon a judgment of the Allahabad High Court dated May 7, 1991 in a petition filed by Uttar Pradesh Sahitya Sammelan wherein an identical challenge was turned down.

After perusing through all the material at hand including the judgment of Allahabad High Court, Court observed-

"The express language in Article 343 (3) permits Parliament to bring a law to permit use of English beyond the period of fifteen years. Thus, when said period of fifteen years was about to expire, Parliament thought it fit to bring into force the Official Languages Act, 1963 and Section 3 of said Act points out the circumstances in which users of English can be discontinued. Therefore, Official Languages Act 1963 is well within competence of Parliament.

As far as Section 3(5) is concerned, it requires resolutions for discontinuance of use of English language passed by legislatures of all States which have not adopted Hindi as their official language. After such resolutions are passed by all such States, the Parliament has to consider such resolutions and itself resolve for discontinuance of English."

Moreover, Court noted that in so far as affairs of States are concerned, the States have been given supremacy to decide upon language to be used by them. Article 343 does not in any way interfere with that supremacy. The bench said-

"However, the Union cannot exist without States and States have to, therefore, form an important part of consideration when language of Union is to be looked into. Keeping this factor in mind, Parliament has in Section 3(5) envisaged resolutions of discontinuance of use of English language.

We, therefore, do not find anything unconstitutional even in Section 3(5) of the Official Languages Act, 1963."

Thus, the writ petition was dismissed.

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