Part 17

India is a country of immense linguistic diversity, with 22 scheduled languages and hundreds of other languages and dialects spoken by its people. The Constitution of India, which came into force in 1950, recognizes this diversity and provides for various provisions on official language in Part 17. In this article, we will look at the official language requirements in the Indian Constitution and how they connect to other clauses covering federalism, fundamental rights, directive principles, and judicial review. We will also look at the problems and difficulties the official language policy in India has and make some recommendations for how to make it better.

What is Part 17 of Indian Constitution? 📜

Part 17 of Indian Constitution consists of four chapters and eleven articles (Articles 343 to 351) that deal with the official language of the Union, the states, and the judiciary, as well as special directives for the protection and promotion of linguistic rights and interests. Part 17 was enacted to address the linguistic aspirations and demands of various regions and groups in India after independence. It also aimed to balance the need for national integration and cultural diversity in a multilingual country. 🌏

The main features of Part 17 are as follows:

Article 343:

  • It declares Hindi in Devanagari script as the official language of the Union. 🗣️
  • It allows the continued use of English as an associate official language of the Union for a specified period. 🇬🇧

Article 344

  • It provides for a commission and a committee of Parliament on official language to review and recommend changes in the official language policy of the Union every ten years. 🏛️

Article 345:

It empowers the states to adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi as their official language or languages . 🗺️

Article 346:

  • It regulates the official language for communication between one state and another or between a state and the Union (Article 346). 📞

Article 347:

  • It enables the President to direct that any language spoken by a section of the population of a state be officially recognized by that state. 👩‍⚖️

Article 348:

  • It prescribes that English shall be used as the official language of the Supreme Court, High Courts, and authoritative legal texts . ⚖️

Article 349:

  • It allows the Governor of a state to authorize the use of Hindi or any other language used for any official purpose in that state in proceedings in High Courts with prior consent from President. 👨‍⚖️

Article 350:

  • It guarantees that any person may submit a representation for redressal of grievances to any authority in any official language of India . ✉️

Article 350A:

  • It obliges every state and local authority to provide adequate facilities for instruction in mother tongue at primary stage for children belonging to linguistic minority groups. 🏫

Article 350B:

  • It provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by President to investigate matters relating to safeguards for linguistic minorities under Constitution. 🕵️‍♂️

Article 351:

  • It directs that Union shall promote Hindi as a medium of expression for all elements of composite culture of India while drawing vocabulary from Sanskrit and other languages. 🎨

How does Part 17 relate to other parts of Indian Constitution? 🔗

Part 17 is not an isolated part of Indian Constitution. It interacts with other parts of the Constitution that deal with fundamental rights, directive principles, federalism, and judicial review. Some examples are:

Article 19(1)(a)

It guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens, which includes the right to use any language of one’s choice. 💬

Article 29(1)

It protects the interests of minorities, which includes linguistic minorities, to conserve their distinct language, script, or culture. 🌈

Article 30(1)

It grants minorities, whether based on religion or language, the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. 🎓

Article 51A(f) imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture. 🙏
Article 210(1) stipulates that Hindi or English shall be used for transaction of business in state legislatures unless otherwise provided by legislature. 💼
Article 256 requires that executive power of every state shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with laws made by Parliament and existing laws which apply in that state. 🚨
Article 261(1) declares that full faith and credit shall be given throughout India to public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of Union and every state. 📃
Article 312(1) empowers Parliament to create one or more all-India services common to Union and states if Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by two-thirds majority. 🚀
Article 368(1) empowers Parliament to amend any provision of Constitution by passing a bill with special majority in both Houses. 📝
Article 371A(1) grants special status to Nagaland with respect to its religious or social practices, customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice, and ownership and transfer of land and resources. 🌿

These examples show that Part 17 is not a rigid or static part of Indian Constitution. It is flexible and dynamic, and can be modified or interpreted by Parliament, state legislatures, courts, and other constitutional authorities according to the changing needs and circumstances of the country. 🔄

A Brief Overview of Parts 1-16

Part 1: The Union and its Territory.
Part 2: Citizenship.
Part 3: Fundamental Rights.
Part 4: Directive Principles of State Policy.
Part 5: The President of India.
Part 6: The States in the Indian Union.
Part 7: The States’ relationship with the Union.
Part 8: The Union Territories.
Part 9: Panchayats.
Part 10: Scheduled and Tribal Areas.
Part 11: The Union and States’ relationship.
Part 12: Finance, Property, Contracts, and Suits.
Part 13: Trade, Commerce, and Intercourse within the Territory of India.
Part 14: Services provided by the Union and States.
Part 15: Elections.
Part 16: Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes.

What are the issues and challenges faced by official language policy in India? ❓

Despite the constitutional provisions on official language in India, there are many issues and challenges that affect the implementation and effectiveness of official language policy in India. Some of them are:

  • The lack of acceptance and popularity of Hindi as the official language of the Union among non-Hindi speaking states and regions, especially in southern and northeastern India. 😕
  • The resistance and resentment of English as an associate official language of the Union among Hindi speaking states and regions, especially in northern and central India. 😠
  • The difficulty and complexity of standardizing and modernizing Hindi as a medium of expression for all elements of composite culture of India, while drawing vocabulary from Sanskrit and other languages. 😓
  • The diversity and multiplicity of regional languages in India, which pose challenges for communication, administration, education, and development across states and regions. 😵
  • The demand and aspiration of various linguistic groups for recognition, protection, and promotion of their languages at state and national levels. 😍
  • The conflict and tension between linguistic majority and minority groups within states and regions over issues such as official language, medium of instruction, public services, cultural identity, and political representation. 😡

How can official language policy in India be improved? 💡

There is no easy or simple solution to improve official language policy in India. It requires a holistic and pragmatic approach that takes into account the constitutional provisions, historical background, socio-cultural context, political realities, economic interests, and educational needs of the country.

Some possible suggestions are:

  • To promote Hindi as the official language of the Union without imposing it on non-Hindi speaking states and regions. This can be done by encouraging voluntary learning and use of Hindi through incentives, rewards, recognition, exposure, and exchange programs. 👏
  • To continue the use of English as an associate official language of the Union without undermining it among Hindi speaking states and regions. This can be done by ensuring quality education and access to English for all sections of society through curriculum reform, teacher training, infrastructure development, and digital literacy. 👍
  • To standardize and modernize Hindi as a medium of expression for all elements of composite culture of India without losing its originality and diversity. This can be done by developing a common script, grammar, vocabulary, style, and terminology for Hindi that reflects its linguistic richness and cultural diversity. 👌
  • To recognize and respect the diversity and multiplicity of regional languages in India without creating linguistic barriers or divisions. This can be done by adopting a multilingual approach that allows the use of multiple languages at different levels and domains of communication, administration, education, and development. 👋
  • To protect and promote the rights and interests of various linguistic groups in India without creating linguistic conflicts or tensions. This can be done by implementing the constitutional safeguards for linguistic minorities under Part 17 effectively and efficiently through regular monitoring, evaluation, reporting, and grievance redressal mechanisms. 👮‍♂️
  • To balance the need for national integration and cultural diversity in India without compromising either. This can be done by fostering a sense of linguistic identity and pride among all Indians while also cultivating a sense of linguistic tolerance and harmony among different.

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