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Official Language In Indian Constitution | POLITY

Introduction | Official Language In Indian Constitution

  • Part XVII of the Constitution deals with the official language in Articles 343 to 351. Its provisions are divided into four heads–Language of the Union, Regional languages, Language of the judiciary and texts of laws and Special directives.

Official Language of the Union

  • The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
  • Notwithstanding anything, 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: Provided that the President may, during the mentioned period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.
  • Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of the English language, or the Devanagari form of numerals, for such purposes as may be specified in the law.

Regional Languages

The Constitution does not specify the official language of different states. In this regard, it makes the following provisions:

  • The legislature of a state may adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi as the official language of that state. Until that is done, English is to continue as official language of that state.
  • Under this provision, most of the states have adopted the major regional language as their official language. For example, Andhra Pradesh has adopted Telugu, Kerala– Malayalam, Assam–Assamese, West Bengal–Bengali, Odisha–Odia.
  • The nine northern states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana and Rajasthan have adopted Hindi. Gujarat has adopted Hindi in addition to Gujarati. Similarly, Goa has adopted Marathi in addition to Konkani. Jammu and Kashmir has adopted Urdu (and not Kashmiri).
  • On the other hand, certain north-eastern States like Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have adopted English. Notably, the choice of the state is not limited to the languages enumerated in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • For the time being, the official language of the Union (i.e., English) would remain the link language for communications between the Union and the states or between various states.
  • The Official Languages Act (1963) lays down that English should be used for purposes of communication between the Union and the non-Hindi states (that is, the states that have not adopted Hindi as their official language).
  • Further, where Hindi is used for communication between a Hindi and a non- Hindi state, such communication in Hindi should be accompanied by an English translation.
  • When the President (on a demand being made) is satisfied that a substantial proportion of the population of a state desire the use of any language spoken by them to be recognised by that state, then he may direct that such language shall also be officially recognised in that state. This provision aims at protecting the linguistic interests of minorities in the states.

Languages Used in Judiciary and Laws

Language to be used in the Supreme Court and in the High Courts and for Acts, Bills, etc-

  • Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Part, until Parliament by law otherwise provides—
    • All proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court,
  • The authoritative texts
  • The Governor of a State may, with the previous consent of the President, authorise the use of the Hindi language, or any other language used for any official purposes of the State
  • The Parliament has not made any law prescribing Hindi to be used as a language of the Supreme Court, and hence the sole language of the Supreme Court has been English. Incidents have occurred in the past, wherein a petition in Hindi was rejected by Supreme Court on the ground that the language of the court was English and allowing Hindi would be unconstitutional.

Special Directives | Official Language In Indian Constitution

  • Language is to be used in representations for redressal of grievances to any officer or authority of the Union or a State in any of the languages used in the Union or in the State, as the case may be.
  • Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities
  • There shall be a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to be appointed by the President. It shall be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under this Constitution and report to the President upon those matters.

The directive for Development of the Hindi Language

  • 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
  • Currently, the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution contains 22 languages-Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
  • However, no time frame can be fixed for consideration of the demands for the inclusion of more languages in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

Classical Language Status

  • In 2004, the Government of India decided to create new category of languages called as “classical languages”. In 2006, it laid down the criteria for conferring the classical language status. So far (2019), the six languages are granted the classical language status.
  • Languages – Year of Declaration
    • Tamil (2004)
    • Sanskrit (2005)
    • Telugu (2008)
    • Kannada (2008)
    • Malayalam (2013)
    • Odia (2014)
  • The criteria for declaring a language as classical mandates high antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1,500– 2,000 years, a body of ancient lit-erature/texts which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers and a literary tradition that is original and not borrowed from another speech community.
  • Also since the classical language and literature is distinct from the modern, there can also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.



Indian Polity

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