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Hindi in Haryana Courts: A tussle between Hindi and English Speakers

The State of Haryana vide notification dated 11th May 2020 notified that Hindi should be used in all Court and Tribunal in Haryana. The state of Haryana amended section 3 of The Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1969 and this Act called as The Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The Haryana cabinet earlier in the first week of May had approved introduction of Hindi in subordinate courts in the State. The Vidhan Sabha had passed the Bill to pave way for implementation of the decision. 78 MLAs, Advocate General and hundreds of advocates, had expressed their interest to get Hindi language authorized for use in the courts so that the citizens of Haryana can understand the entire process in their own language and can 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 own the language to be used in all of it's official works including judicial proceedings. Even the civil and criminal code mandates that the state can decide the language to be used in all the courts save High court. The argument by Haryana state in support of Hindi to be used in judicial work is that most of the litigants cannot understand English and they remain mute spectator through out the all judicial proceedings for or against them.

I, as a rustic Haryanvi ( where speaking even pure Hindi is work of great audacity) and alumini of Faculty of law, University of Delhi ( where Law is chewed in English and only English) 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 the life of a normal law student ( even teacher) from Hindi belt,and particularly from Haryana. Faculty of Law Delhi University is considered as an Institue of eminence( well before Govt tagged it formally) due to its multilinguistic and multi cultural approach to legal education. Students from all walk of life and from more or less all the states get admission in this Institute (thanks to reservation policy of India).

But even after the multilinguistic face of Institution, it is subdivided in two groups of English speaking hencho and Hindi speaking submissive students far from the lit of Delhi region. The later feel inferior even when it comes to the discussion of moot point of law in any class room or seminar. But the class of English speakers ( a few of them just to boast off among their coterie) generally mistake and mis interpret the connection of English as a language to level of intelligentsia wisdom.

Wisdom and English language has a kind of relationship as like of India and Pakistan. Language is a way of communication and not a skill( which the English speaking breed get to know at later stage of their life)

Now, after the notification of Haryana Government ,which made the Hindi as a 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 think that the participation of litigant 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 college and those who are hesitantly use the language.

The English speaking lawyers ( which are really very few in sub ordinate courts of Haryana) are shooting from back and left not stone unturned to criticize the decision of state government when the author spoke to them. On the other hand , lawyers of Hindi belt looked cool and satisfyingly happy.

Let's discuss the reaction and mood of these groups who favour or dis favour this decision of Haryana Govt. The favour or disfavor seemed purely due to their vested interest and hardly any sane voice came forward for larger interest of society, when author interviewed such groups on subject matter.

General Public of Haryana:

It is true that Haryana is a economically forward state of India with second highest per capita income after Goa. But it is equally true that this state is socially backward. Every Haryanvi, who have been brought up in Haryana, have a very terse relation with English ( Thanks to Govt school of state). Every person, even he may have graduated from Oxford or Harvard bound to have touch of dialect, if he or she spent a few years of his/ her childhood in Haryana ( Forget Gurgaon or Faridabad city).

The common men want their participation in day to day official work including court proceedings. This participation is not true if they are not aware about the language used in documents. Literacy rate in Haryana is around 80 percent, but majority of then don't know how to read, speak or understand English. In such scenario, expecting the common people'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 the advocate after paying a fair amount of money.

The argument forward by commoners in the state favouring Hindi is that they don't feel alien in their own country, if Hindi is made the language of their use.

Ramesh Dhaka, a farmer and litigant in Distt Court Jhajjar ( a district of Haryana) since long expressed his pain.

I am ten plus two, but cannot understand or read English. All the summons, application, vakaltnama comes in English which I can't read. I have to rush either to advocate or any other well educated person of village. If it comes in Hindi, I myself can deal with. Ramesh said.

The Hindi, if made language of court then it may help the commoner to an great extent.

A few of hurdles faced by litigant in state of Haryana due to English language of courts are:

  1. They can't understand what is written in plaint or other documents. They have to dependent whole on their pleader.
  2. During the court proceedings, they fail miserably many times to understand what is taken on record as evidence for or against them.
  3. In criminal proceedings the provisions like sec 273, which mandates that evidence should be taken in presence of accused, become futile and redundant when the accused cannot understand what kind of evidences are recorded against him.
  4. The dealing with advocate is purely trust based. They can't read what is written in Vakaltnama or the affidavit which they have signed on instructions of advocate. Many of cases are pending in Bar council about mis conduct of advocate with client on charge of deception by former.
  5. It becomes more difficult for litigants when the advocates do argument in English in court room( though rarely in Haryana) as they have no other option but to remain mute.
  6. Copies of Judgement and orders are in English and hence they fail to understand the reasoning or rational of judgement or order and has to depend on advocate only.
  7. Witnesses in the case also suffer due to language issue as most of them are unaware of English. What is recorded for them, they cannot get to know verbatim.
  8. Many documents which are in Hindi, in order to take in record in the language of court, have to be translated in English. This exercise is also not necessary if the Hindi language is adopted for all judicial work.

Advocates of Subordinate Courts in Haryana:

When I discussed the linguistic change in court with practicing advocates in Haryana, then a large chunk found to be inclined in favour of Hindi with the rider that it should be in High court also.

 We have be 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 unconstitutional Rohtash Malik, a advocate from Distt Court in Rohtak, expressed his pain.

A number of advocates who have put a fair amount of time in litigation get experience of framing their case in English and they become comfortable to English with course of time. The issue arise with young lawyers and new entrants in profession. They have to invest the time to understand the language of suit/ proceedings inspite of legality or technicalities of case. Though, most of law colleges( except a few) in Haryana offer LLB degree with a medium of instruction in English but the lectures and teacher- student interaction happen to be in Hindi.

They feel more comfortable with Hindi. During college days also an invisible pressure of English can be seen on students of such college. This pressure invites inferiority complex. Many a times, I face questions on social media asking very blunt question that whether a student of Hindi medium qualify the state judicial examination. Such questions take birth only because of their fear to 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 lawyer face due to English as language of court are ennumerated as:

  1. Medium of instruction in law colleges of Haryana is mostly English, but the teaching most occurs in Hindi blended with Haryanvi. Students can understand it but they hesitate to speak which ultimately impact their careers adversely in a 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. Hindi, as a medium of instruction becomes more complex for them during practice as the legal education is decorated with technical terms like Medical education with the people of two different language can not exchange easily.

    For example the term Res judicata and injunction in English are called  Purvnirniyat and Parmadesh in Hindi respectively. What a Hindi medium student learn during the whole years of his graduation ,he is forced to unlearn all that in court practice. This forced adoption of a new language demotivate such young lawyers, who only fault is that they couldn't get an opportunity to learn a foreign language.
  3. They 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 Herculean three stage examination named Haryana Judicial Service. 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 eqully 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  Angrej( a slang for English speaking lawyers) Anil Rana said 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 clerk ( Munshi in local language) sitting in front of Chambers of lawyer in every court complex is also influenced greatly by the language of court. In sub ordinate courts in Haryana, only a few Munshi are recognized to type the documents in English and due to which 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 plaint.
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 author offered him to type a document in English.

For sure, language decide the fate, destiny and career for most in court but for people of such lower income group decides their wages and ultimately their livings.

English speaking lawyer cum judicial service aspirants:

If any class which is most furious about the notification of Haryana state dated 11 May 2020 regarding Hindi to be used as court language , then it is some 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 Institue 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 mostly out of these consider the litigation in such courts hay and tasteless. They also not much bother about the fact that how Hindi or English language impact the life of common litigant 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 completion and challenge their hegemony in the subject field. Such students pay a hefty amount of fees in coaching Institue in Delhi and around for getting their selection done in Haryana judicial services.

After Delhi judicial serviceb exam, if any other judicial service exam which is considered to be difficult is then it is none other than Haryana as questions asked are of application based and the judicial mind of candidates is ascertained. Such students want English to remain as 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. Such students who have studied all of their syllabus in English generally and law subjects particularly, find genuinely difficult to switch to any other language over the night. As I cited above, legal language is specific band and specific terms are used for specific events, therefore to learn and memories thousands of such terms in other language is a herculean task for already burdened lawyers/ judicial aspirants.
  2. Such students are always made scapegoat with the change of regime due to no fault of theirs. The education set up of country is English oriented. The High Court and Supreme Court do not allow the Hindi language even in verbal arguments forget about the the content of plaint or any documents to be applied in these constitutional courts. In such scenario, how anyone can expect that the students will do their law degrees with 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 the Hindi in Judicial work. Though it is not impossible to write a judgement by judge or magistrate in Hindi, but it requires a long term and constant training. This will unnecessary enhance the burden of pending cases on court.
  4. It is 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 Woodroff 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 in their pleadings or judgement. 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 judgements of subordinate courts are challenged in above referred courts. In that circumstances, this order or judgement is translated again. The translation has its own drawbacks and at various occasions create confusion between two forum of law.

Haryana is primarily Hindi speaking state whose 100% population speaks or understand Hindi.

Sixteenth president of United States of America, Abraham Lincoln had rightly said that democracy is of the people, for the people and by the people. Democracy is not any Institution rather it is smooth functioning of a conglomeration of Institution. Courts are one of such Institution which are very much important and relevant parts of democracy as a whole. It is pertinent to understand that courts are for the people and people are not for courts. Neither the courts are for lawyers nor for judges or magistrates.

The courts are medium of justice in interest of society and general 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 as Hindi by a notification referred above, then the interest of general public is to be taken into consideration. All the remaining contentions in favour of different categories of lawyers and judges died down 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 High Court. It is true that many lacunae and bottlenecks are present in our system and it is not full proof. This is a matter of time to see how much effectively this decision of Govt is implemented and how will be its effect the life of common litigant.

Moreover, the Judicial system is dependent on lawyers and judges, a conducive environment should be provided to them for the smooth functioning of court. The sudden change of 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 in the medium of instruction is need of hour as per the requirement of a particular state in consonance of constitutional courts.

The author suggests that instead of imposing the Hindi language on some undesriable 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 to be permitted to work in English but the translated copied in Hindi may be provided to litigants free of cost.

It is also suggested that the exam pattern for judicial services should be bilingual( 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 focussed in providing quality and speedy justice to public because ultimately the objective is service of later and not the formers.

Written By: Learned Advocate Hari Mudgil - Alumini of Faculty of Law, Delhi University and Haryana originated.

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