Official Language in India as per Constitution

The legal framework for the use of official languages in India is taken from "the Constitution, the Official Languages Act, 1963, Official Languages (Use for Official Purpose of the Union) Rules, 1976, and various laws, rules and regulations made by the central government and the states."

Language of communication between Union and States is English, but if two or more states agree that the Hindi language should be the official language for communication between such states, that language may be used for such communication.

Constitutional Provisions for official language

Articles 343 to Article 351 in Part 17 of Indian Constitution, have elaborated explanation about the official language of the Republic of India. Articles 343 and 344, particularly deals with the provisions of official language of the Union. Official languages are mentioned in the 8th schedule of Constitution of India.

In 1950, the Indian constitution provided that for a period of 15 years from the commencement of the constitution, English will continue to be used for all official purposes of the Union and envisaged that Hindi would be gradually phased in to replace English, but gave Parliament the power to, by law, provide for the continued use of English even thereafter. While all Indian states have liberty and power to specify their own official language(s) through legislation.

Why english continued to be official language of India even after 15 years deadline ?

In 1964, an attempt was made by the parliament to replace English with Hindi as official language, but it met with protests from non Hindi speaking states states such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, West Bengal, Karnataka, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh.

As a result, the proposal was dropped, and the Act itself was amended in 1967 to provide that "to end the use of English as an official language will require a resolution passed by the legislature of every state that had not adopted Hindi as it's official language and by each house of the Indian Parliament."

This made the Union government to continues to use English in addition to Hindi for its official purposes as a "subsidiary official language".

Official Language in Parliament

Indian constitution has mandated different set of rules for official language in Parliamentary proceedings and the language in which laws are to be made.

Official Language for Parliamentary proceedings

As per Constitutional provisions parliamentary proceedings may be conducted in either of the two languages; 1) English or 2) Hindi. Parliamentary proceedings in English has to be phase out after expiration of 15 years prior but parliament chose to extend it's use and enacted the Official Languages Act, 1963 for the purpose.

In addition, the constitution permits a person who is unable to express themselves in either Hindi or English to address the House in their mother tongue, with the permission of the Speaker of the relevant House.

Official Language for Text of all laws

The text of laws, enactments and statutory instruments are to be written in English, the constitution has mandated English as authoritative language for these texts until Parliament decides otherwise. Parliament has not exercised its power in this matter yet.

Official Language of courts

According to the Article 348 of Indian Constitution, language to be used in the Supreme Court and in high courts and for bills acts etc will be in in the English language until parliament by law provides otherwise.

Article 351

Article 351 says that it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.

Scheduled languages

The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution was originally having a list of 14 languages, but now it has a total of 22 languages : Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkari, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.

4 new languages: Bodo, Maithili, Dogri, and Santali were added via the 92nd Constitutional amendment 2003, to the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Recent News: The Rajya Sabha members are now allowed to speak in any of the 22 scheduled languages, the secretariat will arrange simultaneous interpretation for five more languages: Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani, Santhali and Sindhi.

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