Use of Hindi and regional languages
Article 348(1) of the Constitution of India provides that all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court shall be in English language until Parliament by law otherwise provides.
Article 348 (2) provides that the Governor of the State may, with the previous consent of the President, authorize the use of the Hindi language or any other language used for any official purpose of the State, in the proceedings of the High Court having its principal seat in that State provided that decrees, judgments or orders passed by such High Courts shall be in English. The Official Language Act, 1963 reiterates this and provides under Section 7 that the use of Hindi or official language of a State in addition to the English language may be authorized, with the consent of the President of India, by the Governor of the State for the purpose of judgments, decrees etc. made by the High Court for that State. No law has been made in this regard by the Parliament so far. Therefore, English continues to be the language for all the proceedings of the Supreme Court.
The 18th Law Commission of India in its 216th Report on “Non-Feasibility of Introduction of Hindi as Compulsory Language in the Supreme Court of India” (2008) has, after detailed discussions with all stake-holders, inter-alia, recommended that the higher judiciary should not be subjected to any kind of even persuasive change in the present societal context. The Government has accepted the stand of the Commission.
The use of Hindi has been authorized long back in the proceedings as well in the judgments, decrees or orders in the High Courts of the States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Government of India had received proposals from the Government of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka to permit use of Tamil, Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali and Kannada in the proceedings of the Madras High Court, Gujarat High Court, Chhattisgarh High Court, Calcutta High Court and Karnataka High Court respectively. The advice of the Chief Justice of India was sought on these proposals as per a decision of Cabinet Committee taken in 1965 which provides that comments of the Chief Justice of India are necessary before considering any proposal for use of Hindi or any Regional language in the proceedings of a High Court. The Chief Justice of India vide his d.o. dated 16.10.2012 intimated that the Full Court, after due deliberations, decided not to accept the proposals. The Government has abided by the decision of the Supreme Court.
Based on another request from the Government of Tamil Nadu, the Government requested the Chief Justice of India to review the earlier decisions in this regard vide. letter dated 04.07.2014 and convey the consent of the Supreme Court of India. Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India vide his d.o. letter dated 18.01.2016 conveyed that the Full Court, after extensive deliberations disapproved the proposal and reiterated the earlier decisions of the Hon’ble Court.