By Dr Birbal Jha*
English is a must for social justice in India!
“We cannot pass such direction as the court language is English,” a bench comprising the then Chief Justice TS Thakur, Justice AK Sikri and Justice R Banumathi had observed when in 2015, a petition was filed before the Supreme Court, seeking its direction to make its judgments available in Hindi and regional languages. Promptly, the apex court had turned down the plea.
Whether you are literate or illiterate, educated or uneducated, you are expected to know the law of the land, and the rules and regulations of the place where you live in. Apprehension about the relevance of English in free India is complete ignorance. We have to use English whether we like it or not.
India is a beautiful country because of its multilingual and diversified cultures. In a country where as many as 1,652 languages are spoken, it is impossible to know all of them. Therefore, in order to ensure easy flow of communication within the country, the Central Government came up with the three-language —English, Hindi and a regional language — formula in 1963.
But for the Supreme Court and the various subordinate courts, it was English which was deemed to be the official language for their day-to-day functioning. Hence, anybody wishing to get justice, from the highest court irrespective of his or her educational background, has to communicate with the court in English only.
The front page of the website of the Supreme Court clearly states, “All proceedings are conducted in English only”. This re-enforces this author’s view—English is a must for social justice in India.
Hindi, however, could not replace English under Nehru’s regime and a year before his death in 1963, his government passed the Official Languages Act wherein it was mentioned that English would continue in India for an infinite time. Hence, English is to stay in India. It is not going to go.