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In a significant development, a Full Bench of the Patna High Court on Tuesday allowed for writ petitions and tax references to be filed in Hindi, albeit with a caveat.
Petitions may be filed in Hindi, provided they are accompanied by an English version of the same as well, the Patna High Court has held.
The issue was referred to a Full Bench for adjudication on account of contradictory decisions rendered by Division Benches of the High Court on previous occasion. This judgment was rendered by the Bench of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi with Justices Ashutosh Kumar and Rajeev Ranjan Prasad.
In his opinion, the Chief Justice Sahi noted the reason for the reference.
“we find that issues relating to the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the Constitution coupled with the use of Hindi Devnagari Script in filing of petitions to be recognized as an official language of the Court is the gravamen of this reference. The right to avail a Constitutional remedy by filing a petition under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India in Hindi Devnagari Script is the argument advanced on behalf of the petitioner.”
Along with the petitioner in the case, a number of intervening applications were also filed. It was prayed that Hindi in Devanagri script be allowed as the written language for filing writ petitions under Articles 226 and 227 before the Patna High Court.
A state government notification dated May 9, 1972, had allowed the use of Hindi as an alternative to English for High Court proceedings. However, an exception to the extent of petitions under Articles 226 and 227 as well as references arising from tax matters was carved out from the same.
It is observed that while Article 348 of the Constitution of India mandates that all proceedings in the Supreme Court, as well as High Courts, shall be in English, Hindi along with other official languages is also authorized to be used for official purposes. However, the use of any other language besides English shall not apply to any judgment, order, decree et al passed by the Court.
Citing the same, the Court held that the mode of written or spoken language in Court can be Hindi, provided a notification to that effect is promulgated by the Governor.
After considering the various aspects, the Chief Justice noted that this issue is not confined to the Hindi heartland of the country alone. He adds,
“Viewing Hindi or English as the only language does not seem to be the Constitutional mandate and it is with this end in view that our Constitution framers chiselled and shaped Article 348 of the Constitution of India. The preservation of the federal structure which is an essential part of our democratic system and federalism being a basic structure of our Constitution.”
Appreciating the cause taken up in the case, the Chief Justice goes on to say that “the justiciability of the cause is limited by Constitutional provisions itself.” However, the Chief Justice has also taken into consideration the fact that with changing social needs, it may become necessary and feasible for the Court to entertain writ petitions and tax matters in Hindi as well.
Finding no legislative will to undo the notification of 1972, the Chief Justice said that the same is valid and thus the exceptions carved out cannot be erased. Having said this, the Chief Justice laid down that till the notification is not rescinded or modified, petitions can be filed in Hindi but will have to be accompanied by an English version as well. The judgment of Chief Justice reads as,
“I find it necessary to provide that so long as the Notification dated 9th of May, 1972 is not modified, rescinded or substituted in any form, a petition under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India or a tax reference can be filed in Hindi but it will have to be accompanied by an English version as well which shall be the authentic version of the petition for all legal purposes so long as the Notification dated 9 th of May 1972 stands.”
In a separate but concurring judgment written by Justice Ashutosh Kumar for himself and Justice Rajeev Ranjan Prasad, the view taken by the Chief Justice has been endorsed and approved.
Read the Judgment: