IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


13th October, 2022 Polity and Governance

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In News

  • Recently the Union Home Minister submitted the Report of the Official Language Committee to the Indian President.
    • The Official Language Committee was headed by Home Minister Amit Shah.
  • The Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have described the Report as an attempt to impose Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking states.
    • Official Language Committee members have argued that the media reports are “not true” as the Report submitted to the President is confidential.


Parliament Committee on Official Languages

  • The Parliament Committee on Official Languages was set up in 1976 under the Official Languages Act, of 1963.
  • Section 4 of the Act says that “there shall be constituted a Committee on Official language, on a resolution to that effect being moved in either House of Parliament with the previous sanction of the President and passed by both Houses”.
  • The Committee is chaired by the Union Home Minister.
    • It has 30 members; 20 MPs from Lok Sabha and 10 MPs from Rajya Sabha.
  • The Committee review the advancement made in the use of Hindi for official purposes.
    • They also make recommendations to increase the use of Hindi in official communications.

Key Recommendations in the latest (2021) report

  • The contents of the report submitted to President Murmu are not in the public domain.
  • According to unofficial sources, the Committee has made around 100 recommendations; including that Hindi should be the medium of instruction in IITs, IIMs, and central universities in the Hindi-speaking states.
    • The language used for administrative communication should be Hindi.
    • Lower courts in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Rajasthan already use Hindi. High Courts in other states, where proceedings are recorded in English or a regional language can make available translations in Hindi.
    • Use of the Hindi language in official work would be used in the Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR).
  • The Committee has suggested that efforts should be made to use Hindi “100 per cent” in the ‘A’ states.
    • ‘A’ category states, in which the official language is Hindi.”
    • Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, and the Union Territories of Delhi and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.


Indian Constitution about Official Language

  • Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the official language in Articles 343 to 351.
  • The provisions related to the official language are divided into;
    • Language of the Union
    • Regional languages
    • Language of the judiciary
    • Texts of laws and Special directives


Language of the Union

  • According to the Indian Constitution, the Hindi language written in the Devanagari script is to be the official language of the Union. But, the form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union has to be the international form and not the Devanagari form of numerals.
  • The Constitution Assembly stated that for a period of 15 years from the inception of the Constitution (1950 to 1965), the English language would continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union.
    • Even after 15 years, the Parliament may provide for the continued use of the English language for specific purposes.
  • In 1955, the President of India appointed an Official Language Commission under the chairmanship of B.G. Kher.
    • In 1956, the commission submitted its report to the President.
    • The Commission’s report was examined by a Parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Gobind Ballabh Pant.
  • The Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963.
    • The act provides for the continued use of English (even after 1965), in addition to Hindi, for all official purposes of the Union and also for the transaction of business in Parliament.
    • This act enables the use of English indefinitely (without any time limit).
    • This act was amended in 1967 to make the use of English, in addition to Hindi, compulsory in certain cases.


Regional Language

  • The Indian Constitution does not specify the official language of different states.
  • The Constitution makes the following provisions:
    • The State legislature may adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi as the official language of that state. Until that is done, English is to continue as the official language of that state.
  • Most of the states have adopted the major regional language as their official language.
    • Andhra Pradesh has adopted Telugu.
    • Kerala adopted Malayalam.
    • Assam adopted Assamese.
    • West Bengal adopted Bengali.
    • Odisha adopted Odia.
    • 9 Northern states; Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana and Rajasthan have adopted Hindi.
    • Gujarat has adopted Hindi in addition to Gujarati.
    • Goa has adopted Marathi in addition to Konkani.
    • Jammu and Kashmir have adopted Urdu.
    • Certain northeastern States like Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have adopted English.
  • The choice of the state to adopt a state official language is not limited to the languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Official Languages Act (1963) states that English should be used for purposes of communication between the Union and the non-Hindi states.
  • When the President (on a demand being made) is satisfied that a significant proportion of the population of a state prefers the use of any language spoken by them to be recognised by that state, then he may direct that such language shall also be officially recognised in that state.
    • This provision aims at protecting the linguistic interests of minorities in the states.


Language of the Judiciary and Legislation

  • The Indian constitution Stated that Until the Parliament provides otherwise, the following should be in the English language only:
    • All proceedings in the Supreme Court and every high court.
    • The authoritative texts of all bills, acts, ordinances, orders, rules, regulations and bye-laws at the Central and state levels.
  • The Parliament has not made any provision for the use of Hindi in the Supreme Court. Therefore, the Supreme Court hears only those who petition or appeal in English.
  • The governor of a state, with the previous consent of the president, can authorise the use of Hindi or any other official language of the state, in the proceedings in the high court of the state, but not with respect to the judgements and orders passed by it.
  • A state legislature can specify the use of any language (other than English) with respect to bills, acts, ordinances, orders, rules, regulations or bye-laws, but a translation of the same in the English language is to be published.


Development of the Hindi Language

  • Under Article 351, The Indian Constitution imposes a duty upon the Centre to promote the spread and development of the Hindi language.
  • The 8th Schedule of the Constitution specifies 22 languages (originally 14 languages). These are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri (Dongri), Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Mathili (Maithili), Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
    • Sindhi was added by the 21st Amendment Act.
    • Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added by the 71st Amendment Act.
    • Bodo, Dongri, Maithili and Santhali were added by the 92nd Amendment Act.


Way Forward

  • The debate over Hindi as India’s “National Language” has been going on since the time of the Constitution Assembly.
  • The number of native Hindi speakers in India is only around 44%, which includes speakers of Mixed-Hindi languages such as Awadhi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, etc.
  • Imposing the Hindi language;
    • Can affect the learning ability of non-Hindi speakers thereby affecting their self-confidence.
    • Can also threaten other languages and reduce diversity.
  • Imposing a Particular language and Culture could also threaten the diversity and federalism of India.
  • National integration must not come at the cost of people’s linguistic identities.
  • Language is an integral part of People’s culture and therefore privileging Hindi over all other languages spoken in India takes away from its diversity.