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The Punjab and Haryana High Court have issued notice in a plea challenging the constitutional validity of Section 3-A of the Haryana Official Language Act, 1969, which provides for Hindi as the official court language for lower courts in Haryana (Sameer Jain and ors v. State of Haryana and anr).
Section 3-A mandates the use of Hindi as “sole official language” for work in civil and criminal courts subordinate to the High Court, as well as other courts and tribunals across the state of Haryana.
The petition moved by Advocates Sameer Jain, Sandeep Bajaj, Angad Sandhu, Suvigya Awasthi and Anant Gupta before the High Court primarily assails the constitutionality of Section 3-A for its alleged arbitrariness, unreasonableness, and inherent discrimination.
Notice in the matter was issued today by a Bench of Justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh.
The petitioners had earlier approached the Supreme Court but withdrew their petition seeking the Court’s permission to file a fresh petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The petitioners contend that the provision arbitrarily draws an unreasonable distinction between persons and advocates who speak Hindi and those who do not.
The petitioners argue that the provision creates barriers to justice for non-Hindi-speaking citizens in Haryana, constraining advocates ill-versed with Hindi from appearing before courts in Haryana by reason of the language barrier.
This, they further contend, acts as a restriction upon the right of an advocate to practise before any Court within the territory of India and violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, while benefitting one group of advocates over the other.
Further, the Petitioners aver that the objectives of the legislation, viz. promotion of Hindi as official language in the State and benefitting Hindi-speaking litigants cannot be achieved with “the exclusion of the use of other languages which have been customarily used in litigation”, as this would have a “pernicious effect” on litigants, lawyers, and judges in Haryana who do not speak Hindi.
The implementation of Section 3-A is accompanied by “training of court-staff and officials” in the use of Hindi for work in courts, but no equivalent training has been provided for advocates appearing in these Courts, it is noted. The petitioners submit that this further disadvantages them.
The Petitioners also note that the use of Hindi in legal proceedings constitutes a restriction on the right of an advocate to practise since its use involves “written and verbal fluency in the language” that very few possess.
Thus, the challenged provision bestows the right to practise law in Haryana on a “select few”, precluding non-Hindi-speaking advocates from appearing before and comprehending the orders, judgments, and decrees of subordinate courts in Haryana.
Since proceedings before High Courts and the Supreme Court are in English, litigants and lawyers will have to bear the added expense of translating proceedings before the subordinate courts, which further hinders access to justice, the petition states.
Read the order: