On July 17, when President Ram Nath Kovind releases translated copies of 100 Supreme Court judgments in seven Indian languages — Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya and Telugu — he will see coming to fruition something he has repeatedly spoken about, not just in his public speeches but also in his interactions with Chief Justices of High courts and at least two Chief Justices of India.
In his first meeting with current CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Kovind mentioned that from his own experience as a lawyer he found that use of English in courts leaves most people at a loss, and emphasised the need for them to be translated in Indian languages, sources in Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
CJI Gogoi agreed and told the President that it is something he also had been thinking about, and promised to act on the suggestion.
On July 17, when Kovind inaugurates the new Supreme Court building where the Appu Ghar once stood, he will release these translations.
Addressing a function at the High Court of Kerala, in Kochi, on October 28, 2017, Kovind had said, “It is important to not only take justice to the people but also to make it understandable to litigating parties in a language they know. High Courts deliver judgments in English…. Perhaps a system could be evolved whereby certified translated copies of judgments are made available…in local or regional languages.”
Days later, speaking at the inauguration of the National Law Day Conference in Delhi, the President had raised the point again: “…enhancing legal literacy and simplifying legal rules; easier language while delivering judgments, so that these are understood by a greater number of people; and as I have suggested earlier, quick availability of certified translated copes of High Court judgments in the local language…”
Referring to the July 17 event, a source said the plan is that eventually all Supreme Court orders will be available in all Indian languages.
“A start had to be made, which has been made with these 100 in seven languages,” the source said. “The honourable judges themselves prioritised these 100 (verdicts) based on what is of relevance to the common people. These relate to labour laws, family laws, personal laws, consumer laws and rent laws, among others.
“They may not be very high-profile (cases), but they are judgments that the common person should know about.”
This is the first time that translations of judgments are being made available by the apex court.
In Chhattisgarh, the practice of translating High Court judgments has already started. When Kovind met the then Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court T V Nair Radhakrishnan — since then transferred to Calcutta High Court — in October 2017, the President had raised the issue. Within a few weeks, Justice Radhakrishnan said that translated copies of the High Court’s orders have been made available in the state in Hindi.
A senior Rashtrapati Bhavan official said, “We are hoping that by the end of the year all high courts would have the facility of judgments being translated in local languages.”
Sources in the President’s Office said that on July 13, when Kovind travels to Chennai for a function at the Dr Ambedkar Law University there, he is likely to make a public request to the Chief Justice of Madras High Court to make available translations of the court’s judgments
Pointing out that Kovind discussed the issue of translating court orders into local languages each time met a Chief Justice of High Court or the CJI, the official said, “The President also told them that a lot of times litigants have to pay double the fees to lawyers only to have the judgment relayed to them in their languages. He had mentioned this also to former CJI Deepak Misra.”