The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday disposed of a petition challenging the Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2020 — which makes the use of Hindi language mandatory in lower courts across the state.
While a detailed order was not immediately available, Haryana Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan told The Indian Express that the government argued before court that it is yet to issue a notification regarding implementation of the amendment.
“The petition has been disposed of by the court as premature,” Mahajan said, adding that the court has given petitioners the liberty to challenge the decision after issuance of such notification.
The amendment Act mentions that it will “come into force on such date, as the state government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint”. Mahajan added that the amended Act also says that the state will have to first provide the requisite infrastructure and train the staff within six months.
The petitioners — advocate Sameer Jain and others – had challenged the amendment made to the law by Haryana government on May 11. The state Vidhan Sabha had passed the amended bill in March and a notification making it a law was issued last month.
According to the government, the decision was made after a demand was made by 78 MLAs and hundreds of lawyers that Hindi needs to be used in courts to enable the citizens of Haryana understand the judicial process in their own language and allow them to express themselves before courts easily.
According to the provision added to the law by way of the amendment, “work shall be performed in Hindi language in all civil courts and criminal courts in Haryana subordinate to the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, in all revenue courts and rent tribunals, or in any other court or tribunal appointed by the state government”.
Advocate Jain had contended that the objective of such a decision is not clear and has no “rational nexus” to any object sought to be achieved. The petition also argued that the amendment creates an arbitrary distinction and classifies legal practitioners into two groups — those who are proficient in use of Hindi language and those who are not.
Submitting that Section 30 of the Advocates Act, 1961, gives him a right to practice all over India, Jain also submitted that some lawyers may not be able to do so as all law colleges teach in English medium, and Hindi version of the legal terminologies are not known. It was also argued that the amendment fails to appreciate that India is diverse nation where multiple languages are spoken.
The amendment was earlier this month challenged before the Supreme Court too with the petitioners, different lawyers from Delhi, UP and Haryana, arguing that the decision will be adversarial for those who come from different states and settle in Haryana but do not know Hindi. However, the apex court refused to intervene that time in the petition and asked the petitioners to approach the HC, after the Haryana government submitted that the law under challenge was a state law.
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