Uniform language policy needed in all levels of courts: B.V. Acharaya
Anyway, there was no justification for the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court who hails from Karnataka to get angry with a litigant who could speak only in the local language.
The recent incident in the court of Chief Justice of Gujrat High Court has given raise to available controversy. When a party-in-person before the Bench presided over by the Chief Justice insisted on addressing the court in Gujarathi only, the Chief Justice got irritated responded by replying to him in Kannada.
The Chief Justice appears to have reminded him that he was before the High Court (where English is the official language) and not District Court where local language, Gujarathi also can be used. A litigant not knowing English is also entitled to have access to justice before a High Court.
The Gujarat High Court Chief Justice could have avoided controversy either by transferring the case to some other Bench consisting of Judges knowing Gujrathi or by taking assistance of Brother Judge on his Bench to know the
substance of the submission of the litigant concerned. The incident highlights the anomaly in the two policies – one encouraging local language in all courts, and the other transfer of High Court Judges from one State to another and Chief Justice,he being only from other State.
Anyway, there was no justification for the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court who hails from Karnataka to get angry with a litigant who could speak only in the local language. The above incident again highlights the fact that the proposal to have an All India Judicial Service on the model of IAS, in the present circumstances is totally impracticable.
An IAS Officer on the allotment to a particular State is expected to learn the local language which is the administrative language also. Many such officers find it difficult to achieve the required proficiency in the local language but somehow they try to manage.
But in the case of judicial service at the District level (a District Judge or Civil Judge) much higher degree of proficiency in the local language is required, as he is expected not only to translate the deposition of a witness in vernacular language to English but also writ lengthy judgments (which has now become the order of the day led by the Supreme Court itself) in the local language.
The State Governments are also conferring awards/prizes to Judicial Officers who write judgments in the local language in preference to English. A few days ago, Union Law Minister told the Lok Sabha that 13 High Courts have opposed the idea of All India Judicial Service and only two High Courts (Sikkim & Tripura) have favoured them.
Of the State Governments, only two States were in favour while 13 have opposed it. The claim of the Government that such an All India Judicial Service will strengthen the overall judicial delivery system appears to be a myth.
Unless and until we can have one uniform language for use in courts at all levels throughout the country, it is not practicable or feasible to establish an All India Judicial Service on the model of IAS.
The author is senior counsel and former Advocate General of Karnataka