IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Official Language


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Context - The Union Home Minister stated that citizens should accept the Hindi language as an alternative to English.



  • The Union Home Minister's stated that citizens should communicate in the Hindi language as an alternative to English.
  • The Home Minister as the chairman of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee disclosed to members that 70% of the agenda of the Union government is now drafted in Hindi.


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 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 specified 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 north-eastern States like Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have adopted English.
  • The choice of the state to adopt state official language is not limited to the languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Official Languages Act (1963) lies down 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 in 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 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 of 1967.
    • Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added by the 71st Amendment Act of 1992.
    • Bodo, Dongri, Maithili and Santhali were added by the 92nd Amendment Act of 2003.


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, Maithali, 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.