A judge may hold his court in Hindi, but he must speak in English when addressing the Supreme Court, as the CJI ruled recently inviting several criticism of being snobbish and elitist. Examine with justification whether the court has committed any wrong by its response in the above rulings. (200 W/ 12½ M)

Mentor’s Comment:

This question seems to be very basic but the intention here is to make you aware and learn the various provisions related to language in our constitution.

The introduction should start with constitutional schemes in relation to language in Part XVII titled ‘Official Language’ groups in our Constitution i.e. Language of the Union, Regional languages, Interstate Communication etc. Apart from this there are provisions dealing with language in Business in Parliament (Art 120) and State Legislature (Art 210).

Further, mention about the Language for the Court mentioned under Art 348 and also the observation of Constituent Assembly in this regard. Also mention the various provisions under Art 348 which confirms that the official language of SC shall be English.

Further, mention about the Munshi Ayyangar Formula which suggests English to continue as official language of India along with Hindi for a period of fifteen years.

Next, Also mention about Madhu Limye’s case which was in 70s and decided what should be the language of SC and why.

Bring conclusion based on the content of main body.

Model Answer:

Language for the Courts:

  • Article 348 of the Constitution of India talks about the language for the Courts. Just as we have a national anthem, national flag etc. there was a desire to have a national language. But the task of having a national language for a multicultural country like India was never easy. India has always been a multilingual nation. Over 1600 languages and dialects flourishes in India.
  • But which language it (National Language) should be? The Constituent assembly was bitterly divided into two halves – one who wanted Hindi as the official language and other who didn’t want so. The Chairperson Dr. BR Ambedkar ruled out having more than one official language. He stated that:
  • ‘One language can unite people. Two languages are sure to divide people. This is an inexorable law. Culture is conserved by language. Since Indians wish to unite and develop a common culture, it is bounden duty of all Indians to own up Hindi as their official language.’

Munshi-Ayyangar Formula:

After lots of deliberations, Munshi-Ayyangar formula was adopted without dissent. According to this formula, English was to continue as the official language of India along with Hindi for a period of fifteen years.

  • Schedule VIII is a fruit of Munshi – Ayyangar formula.
  • In 1963, the official language Act was enacted to pacify non-Hindi speakers and in 1967 the Act was amended for indefinite usage of English and Hindi as the official language of the country.

As we are concerned only with the language of the Supreme Court, we will keep our focus on Article 348. Article 348 of the Constitution provides that:

Article 348: Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this part, until Parliament by law otherwise provides –

  1. All proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court,
  2. The authoritative texts – i) of all Bills to be introduced or amendments thereto to be moved in either House of Parliament or in the House or either House of the Legislature of a State,
  3. ii) of all Acts passed by Parliament or the Legislature of a State and of all Ordinances promulgated by the President or the Governor of a State, and

iii) of all orders, rules, regulations and bye-laws issued under this Constitution or under any law made by Parliament or the Legislature of a State, shall be in the English Language.

A plain reading of Art 348 provides that all proceedings in the Supreme Court shall be in English. Further, the Supreme Court of India Handbook of Practice and Procedure and Office Procedure, 2017, also says: ‘the language to be used in the Court and all proceedings in the Court, shall be in English.

However, apart from this there are other articles in the Constitution which talks about the language to be used in various institutions of India.

Constitutional Scheme in relation to language:

In the Constitution of India Part XVII titled ‘Official Language’, classifies languages into following distinct groups viz;

  • Language of the Union (Art 343-344)
  • Regional Languages (Art 345)
  • Interstate Communication (Art 346-347)
  • Language for the courts and Legislative Process (Art 348)
  • Special directives (Art 350-351)
  • Apart from these, there are provision dealing with language in Business in Parliament (Art 120) and State Legislatures (Art 210).

Madhu Limye’s Case:

In 70s a Seven Judge Bench of the Supreme Court had an occasion to devolve upon the issue: what should be the language of the Supreme Court?

While hearing a habeas corpus petition in the case of Madhu Limye v/s Ved Murti, intervener Raj Narain insisted on arguing in Hindi before the Supreme Court. The Court heard Raj Narain for some time in Hindi and next day expressed their inability to follow him. The Court gave him three options:

  • That he may argue in English or
  • He may allow his counsel to present his case or
  • He may give his written arguments in English.

The Court reminded that Art 348 provides that the language of the Supreme Court is English. As Raj Narain was not amenable to these suggestions, the court was construed to cancel his intervention.


In the present controversy, the bench lead by the Hon’ble CJI has simple followed this 7 judge order in Madhu Limye V/s Ved Murti. Following the previous judgement of the Supreme Court the CJI has given the option to the District judge to submit his written arguments in English.

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