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25 Apr 2017

Lawyers, English and one news that spoke volumes

High Court, English and post-colonial hangover

Big B had once said on silver screen, "I can talk English, I can walk English.. I can run English, because English is such a funny language."

It is perhaps a good time to point out one recent incident in a court that became the talk of the town due to an English judgment.

If you think you know English, give it a read.

In context

High Court, English and post-colonial hangover
"Angrej chale gaye magar humein angreji sikha gaye"


"Angrej chale gaye magar humein angreji sikha gaye"

When it came to giving a judgment on a landlord vs tenant case; the verdict, penned in English by a Himachal Pradesh high court judge, read absolute gibberish.

After all the mockery, snide comments and subsequent entertainment fodder, one lingering question remained.

Does a regional court case filed in a state where the majority converse in Hindi, need an English judgement?


The education system in India

A 2014 study cited that majority of students studying in universities come from English medium schools and only 1% come from schools where local language was used as a medium of education.

Chances of higher education become slim when the university entrance test becomes the first barrier, as the question papers are usually given in English and answers are expected in the same.

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You become a judge and then what?


You become a judge and then what?

Statistics show that 22 million cases are currently pending in Indian district courts, out of which, 6 million have been pending for around five years.

Only 13 judges are presently accounting for the justice-needs of one million Indian citizens. One doesn't need to be a mathematician to understand that judges are overworked in India and English is not the priority now, justice is.


Why do we need English in courtrooms?

If one needed an English judgement in district courts because every person understood it, it would have made sense.

But in a country where resources of justice are in short supply, it becomes a futile exercise to give judgement in a tongue that is still not totally understood by the masses.

This is not a matter of language hegemony but of practicality.

Take a look at the case in hand


Take a look at the case in hand

The judgement in question is of a case that began in November 1999. After 18 long years, it was finally on the verge of being resolved till the English guffaw took place.

The judgement has been sent for re-drafting, which has given the losing side an opportunity to push the case further with an appeal.


A lesson from another victim of post colonialism

Africa is not a stranger when it comes to the effect of English within its people.

Parliament's Justice and Corrections oversight Committee Chairman Mathole Motshekga noted that a "communications breakdown" was plaguing the justice system "because of the language question".

He said the problem with lawyers is, "they are all English speaking, but the majority of the people speak indigenous languages."

A change for the better


A change for the better

Motshekga suggested that the law curriculum should be changed to accommodate indigenous people because it is the citizens that the law serves.

The committee said, "It is our view that going forward no one will be able to get a law degree unless they have passed indigenous language."

Indian justice system is already bogged down with hiccups, one more is not needed.

The true spirit of the law

"Law is not just mastery of rules; it has to do with people. If you don't understand society and how it functions, then how do we extend rights to people?" - Mathole Motshekga.

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