CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
The Constitution of India provides for the use of one or two or more languages
in the administration of the Union and States, sees that the provisions for use
of languages of all sections of people are made depending on the genuiness of
the claim.1 Also, the interests of all the people of all the regions are in principle,
accommodated in relevant ways.
Language : Union
Article 343 recognizes Hindi in Devanagari script as the Official Language. And
'for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the
English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the
Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement'. However
'... Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen
years, of (a) the English language ... or such purposes may be specified in the
Also Article 351 considers it as the duty of the Union to promote the spread of
Hindi language, to develop it, enrich it by assimilating the forms, style and
expressions in Hindustani and other languages in Eighth Schedule, etc.
Use in Parliament
Article 120 provides for use of Hindi and English to transact business in Parliament.
However, if a person cannot adequately express himself in Hindi, in English, the
Chairman of the Council of States or Speaker of the House of the People may permit
him to address the House in his mother tongue.
Language : State
Article 345 empowers the Legislature of the State to adopt 'any one or more of
the languages in use in the State or Hindi as the language or languages to be
used for all or any of the official purposes' of the concerned State. But it provides
for the continued use of English for the 'purposes within the state for which
it was being used before the commencement of the Constitution', until the Legislature
of the State otherwise provides by law.
Use in Legislature
Article 210 provides for the use of the Official Language or language of the State
or Hindi or English. However, if a member cannot adequately express himself in
any of these languages he may address the House in his mother tongue.
As per the Article 348(3), in cases where the State has prescribed any language
other than English for use in Bills or Acts passed by the Legislature 'a translation
of the same in the English language published under the authority of the Governor
of the State in the Official Gazette of that shall be deemed to be the authoritative
text ....' in English.
Article 346 stipulates that the language authorized for use in the Union for official
purposes shall be the official language for communication between the State and
another State and between a State and the Union. Also if two or more States agree
that Hindi language shall be the official language for communication between such
states, that language may be used for such communications.
Article 30(1) provides them the 'right to establish and administer educational
institution of their choice'.
Article 347 provides that if there is demand by a substantial proportion of the
population in a State and if the President is satisfied he may 'direct that such
language shall also be officially recognized throughout the State or any part
thereof for such purpose as he may specify'.
Article 350 provides for people 'to submit a representation for the redress of
any grievance to any officer or authority of the Union or State in any of the
languages used in the Union or in the State'.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACTS
The policy followed by the Union Government and some of the States relating to
the use of a language or languages in their administration as reflected in the
Official Languages Acts is given below. It will help in understanding the concern
of states towards keeping harmony among their population.
The Official Languages Act, 1963 enacted to 'provide for the languages which may
be used for the official purposes of the Union, for transacting the business in
Parliament, for Central and State Acts and ....'; makes provision for the continuation
of the use of English in addition to Hindi for all the official purposes of the
Union for which it was being used immediately before that day, and for the transaction
of business in Parliament; use of English for communication between the Union
and a State which has not adopted Hindi as its official language; communication
in Hindi to be accompanied by its English translation if the receiving State of
the concerned communication has not adopted Hindi as the official language.2
Even if a State has not adopted Hindi as the official language it can communicate
with the Union or a State that has adopted Hindi as its official language in Hindi;
for communication between one Ministry and another; one Ministry and Company,
etc., of the Central Government; between any Corporation or Company, etc., of
the Central Government, communications will be in English or Hindi. The Hindi
communications shall be accompanied by English translation. Both Hindi and English
shall be used in resolutions, general orders, etc., in administrative and other
reports and official reports laid in the Houses of the Parliament; contracts,
agreements executed etc., by the Central Government.
The Resolution adopted by both the Houses of the Parliament on 18th January 1968
regarding the use of language in administration said that '... it is the duty
of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language and to develop it so
that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite
culture'. '... A more intensive and comprehensive programme shall be prepared
and implemented by the Government of India for accelerating the spread and development
of Hindi, and its progressive use for the various official purposes of the Union
... And as far as languages of Eighth Schedule are concerned, 'it is necessary
in the interest of the educational and cultural advancement of the country that
concerted measures should be taken for the full development of the languages'.
To protect the interests of the people in matters relating to the public services
of the Union 'that compulsory knowledge of either Hindi or English shall be required
at the stage of selection of candidates for recruitment to the Union Service or
posts ...; and that all the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution
and English shall be permitted as alternative media for the All India and higher
Central Service examinations after ascertaining the views of the Union Public
Service Commission on the future scheme of the examinations, the procedural aspects
and the timings'.
The Legislative Assembly Bill, 1964 of Andhra Pradesh published in Gazette Extra-ordinary
on 7th December, 1969 recognized Telugu as the Official Language of Andhra Pradesh.
Accordingly Telugu may be used by Notification for '(i) the Bills introduced in
or amendments thereon to be moved in or Acts passed by the Legislature or in ordinance
promulgated by the Governor; (ii) Orders, Rules, Regulations and Bye-laws issued
by the State Government under any law of the Parliament or of the Legislature;
(iii) in appeals, affidavits, summons or judgement or documents, awards, etc.,
in the courts; or tribunals; (iv) the medium of instruction in the schools, colleges
and other educational institutions'.
The Andhra Pradesh Official Language Act, 1966 recognizes Telugu as the Official
Language of Andhra Pradesh.4 It will be used (a) in all Bills to be introduced
or amendments to be moved, in either House of the Legislature of the State and
in all Acts passed by the Legislature of the State; (b) in all ordinances promulgated
by the Governor of the State under Article 213 of the Constitution and in all
the Regulations made by him under Paragraph 5 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution;
(c) in all orders, rules, regulations and bye-laws issued by the State Government
or other authority or office of the State Government under the Constitution or
under any law made by Parliament or the Legislature of the State. And 'until the
State Government otherwise direct by notification under section 3(i) the English
language shall continue to be used for these official purposes within the State
for which it was being used immediately before the commencement of this Act; and
(ii) the English language may continue to be used for the transaction of the business
in the Legislature of the State'.
The Act also has made special provision for use of Urdu or any other language
or languages in addition to Telugu in certain areas of the State for specific
purposes. The Notification issued on 25th May, 1967 in pursuance of the above
cited Act makes provision for use of Oriya, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi and Urdu languages
in specific regions for specific purposes in addition to Telugu5. With the aim
of gradual implementation "Telugu was introduced in certain Departments at
Taluk level in 1966. Then it was extended to all the offices of the Government
at District level in 1976. Telugu is also introduced for certain purposes at Secretariat
level in the three sections of Official Languages wing of the General Administration
According to the Assam Official Language Act of 1960, Assamese is the Official
Language in the Brahmaputra Valley Districts, Bengali in the Cachar District and
English in the Autonomous Districts of Assam State.7
In Bihar, Hindi is recognized as the Official Language. The Bihar Official Language
(Amendment) Act, 1980 declared Urdu as second Official Language for specified
areas and purposes.8 Hence, in addition to Hindi, in 15 districts, Urdu is recognized
as second official language for the following purposes:
Receipt of applications and memoranda in Urdu language and reply thereto in the
ii) Acceptance by the Registration Officer for registration
of documents scribed in Urdu;
iii) Publication of important Government rules
and notifications in Urdu;
iv) Publication of important Government orders
and circulars of public importance in Urdu;
v) Publication of important Government
advertisements in Urdu;
vi) Translation of Zilla Gazette in Urdu and its publication;
vii) Display of important sign boards in Urdu.
The Mysore Official Language Act, 1963 recognizes Kannada as the Official Language
of the State.9 It makes provision for continued use of English for official purposes
and for the transaction of business in the Legislature. As per the Notification
No.GAD 55 Pol 71, dated 26th June 1972 "if the population of linguistic minority
in any Taluk is not less than 15 percent: (i) Petitions shall continue to be accepted
in the minority language concerned and replies given in that language as far as
possible; (ii) Hand-outs and publicity materials shall continue to be given in
such a minority language; (iii) Government Notices shall continue to be published
in such a minority language".10
With effect from 1st November, 1965 [G.O(P) No. 647/65/PD, dated 19th October
1965] the Government of Kerala ordered that Malayalam shall be the Official Language
for some of the officers in the Panchayats, Municipalities etc. With effect from
1st May, 1966 [G.O.(P) No.159/66/PD dated 19th April 1966] use of Malayalam as
official language was extended to office of Prison, Education, Survey and Land
Records, etc. The Kerala Official Languages (Legislation)Act, 1969 recognized
Malayalam and English to be the official languages of Kerala.11 They shall be
the languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes of the State.
The Act has also made special provisions for linguistic minorities of Kerala.
Accordingly '(a) The Tamil and Kannada minority people in the State may use their
respective languages for their correspondence with the State Government in the
Secretariat and the Heads of Departments and also with all the local offices of
the State Government situated in those areas which are declared by the Government
to be linguistic minority areas for the purpose and the replies sent in such cases
shall also be in their respective minority languages and (b) The linguistic minorities
other than Tamil and Kannada in the State may use the English language for their
correspondence with the State Government offices and in such cases the replies
sent to them shall be in the English language'.
The Madhya Pradesh Official Language Act, 1957 recognizes Hindi as the Official
Language in the Devanagari script for "all purposes except such purposes
as are specifically excluded by the Constitution and in respect of such matters
as may be specified by Government from time to time".12 The Madhya Pradesh
Rajbhasha (Anupurak Upabandha) Adhiniyam, 1972 makes provision "for the publication
of authoritative texts in Hindi of laws passed originally by the State Legislature
in English..."13. The Madhya Pradesh Official Languages (Amendment) Act,
1972 inserts a clause for "The form numerals to be used for the official
purposes of the State shall be the Devanagari form of numerals: provided that
the State Government may, by notification authorize the use of the international
form of Indian numerals in addition to the Devanagari form of numerals for any
of the official purposes of the State"14. In order to avoid difficulties
from sudden switchover to Hindi form English, the English was also permitted for
use in some matters. However, the scope of the use of English was minimised from
25th August 1977. Except in (a) Prescriptions, Postmortem reports in medico-legal
cases, and (b) Correspondence (including agreements) with newspapers, transacting
their business in English, Hindi was made compulsory.15
The Maharashtra Official Languages Act, 1964 recognizes 'Marathi shall, as from
the appointed day, be the language to be used for all official purposes referred
to in the Article 345 of the Constitution, as respects to the State of Maharashtra
except such purposes as the State Government may, by rules issued from time to
time in the Official Gazette specify, and Hindi may be used as the Official Language
for such expected purposes'. Also '..... the English language may, as from the
appointed day, continue to be used, in addition to Hindi and Marathi, for the
transaction of business in the Legislature of the State'. Here it is Marathi in
The Orissa Official Languages Act, 1954 recognizes Oriya "to be used for
all or any of the official purposes of the State of Orissa".17 The Orissa
Official Language (Amendment) Bill, 1963 makes provision for the continuance of
English language "in addition to Oriya for transaction of business in Legislature
of the State of Orissa".18 In the Orissa border district bordering Andhra
Pradesh "... State Government have issued a notification which makes Telugu
the Court language besides Oriya in some of these areas".19
The Madras Official Language Act, 1956 recognizes Tamil as the Official Language
of the State. Also "the English language shall continue to be used for all
the official purposes of the state for which it was being used before the commencement
of the Act..."20. With the aim of gradual implementation of the use of Tamil
in administration about 1700 small Government offices were advised in 1958 to
use Tamil. Gradually the same policy has spread to other departments and offices.
At present entire District Administration is conducted mostly in Tamil. At the
Secretariat level also there has been a significant shift towards the use of Tamil
in all the departments.
In Uttar Pradesh, Hindi is the Official Language. The Uttar Pradesh Ordinance
No.20 of 1982 which came into force from 21st April, 1982 provides for the use
of Urdu in addition to Hindi for the following purposes.21
i) Entertaining applications in Urdu presented by members of public.
documents in Urdu presented for registration with a Hindi copy thereof.
Publication of important Government rules, regulations and notifications.
iv) Publication of important Government advertisements, etc.
of Gazette in Urdu.
The West Bengal Official Language Act, 1961 recognizes "(a) in the three
hill sub-divisions of the district of Darjeeling, namely, Darjeling, Kalimpong
and Kurseong, the Bengali language and the Nepali language, and (b) elsewhere,
the Bengali language shall be the language or languages to be used for the official
purposes of the State of West Bengal..."22. The West Bengal Official Language
(Amendment) Act, 1964 makes provision for the "continuance of English language
for official purposes of the State and for use in the State Legislature"23.
The Language Act of 1961 was amended in 1973 in West Bengal Official Language
(Amendment) Act, 1973 for the insertion of the Section 3A which reads that "the
Nepali Language may, in addition to Bengali language, be used for (a) rules, regulations
and bye-laws made by the State Government under the Constitution of India or under
any law made by the Parliament or the Legislature and (b) notifications or orders
issued by the State Government under the Constitution of India or under any laws
made by Parliament or the Legislature of West Bengal, as apply to the three hill
sub-divisions of the district of Darjeeling, namely, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and
In Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar
Haveli, Goa, English is the Official Language. And in Jammu and Kashmir, Urdu
is the Official Language.25