One Nation One Language for a Country like India has always been a controversial concept as India the country where there are 22 recognised official languages, as per the Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution. The language is the epitome of diversified population, cultures, and traditions of India. It is because of various languages that India has kept his traditional values high in the world. Various languages keep the diversified population and religions of India in unity. The equal status of all the 22 languages gives a sense of their own nation to all the citizens of the Indian Country. It is ironic to see that a country like India who always believed in “Unity in Diversity” is looking forward to an idea of Singular Nation i.e. One Nation One Language.
India is a country of numerous languages which creates various problems & tensions in the country. Federalism in India is subjected to a unique challenge, as here, India has to bind together a much larger number of linguistic or cultural groups than any other Federation. India has majorly two linguistic families, one ‘Indo-Aryan’ and other ‘Dravidian’. The Indo-Aryan languages are derived from Sanskrit and are eleven in number. Hindi is also one of them. In India, Hindi is the language which is majorly spoken by the people. The Dravidian languages mostly prevail in South India and of these Telugu is spoken by the largest group. The languages in both the groups have a good deal in common as one is derived from Sanskrit and the other is influenced by Sanskrit. But, none of these got an important place during the British Rule as at that time English was accepted as the language for the administration, instruction, and examination of the whole country. During the time of British Rule, English was the sole medium of communication between all the elites. But, in spite of getting a pre-eminent position during the British reign, English never became the mass language in India as it was being spoken fluently only by the microscopic minority of people. At the time making of the Constitution also, the language controversy came to the forefront. The contentions at that time were only two: (1) the English language should be displaced from its pre-eminent position; and (2) Hindi should take the place of English.
The Constitution of India contains detailed provisions regarding the Language question which represents a compromise between the conflicting views of Hindu enthusiasts and others. These provisions also have a number of interrelated elements. Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the provisions of Official Language. Chapter 1 of the same deals with the Language of Union, Chapter 2 with Regional Languages, Chapter 3 with Language of the Supreme Court, High Courts, etc. and Chapter 4 deals with Special Directives.
According to Article 343 (1), the official language of the Union has been defined as Hindi in Devnagri script. The reason behind not making Hindi as a national language and an official language was that not only the Hindi but all the other regional languages are the National Languages of India.
The clause (2) also states that for the 15 years from the commencement of the Indian Constitution, the English language shall be used for the purpose of the work of Union. But the Proviso of the same states that, the President, if needed may, in addition to the English language authorise the use of Hindi language.
Therefore, the Constitution of India does not regard 15 years as a deadline for this purpose, some flexibility is there. The clause (3) talks about the power of the Parliament to make Law. It states that the Parliament may by law provide for the use of English Language & Devnagri in form of numerals for the purposes specified in Law beyond the 15 years of commencement of the Indian Constitution.
Thus, on the view of Article 343, it can be explained that the Constitution of India has made a provision for the appointment of an ‘Official Language Commission’ on whose advice the Central executive decided purposes for which Hindi should be used in addition to English during the 15-year limit.
Article 345 deals with the official language of the State. It states that the Legislature of the State may by Law adopt Hindi or any one or more languages used in the State for all or any of the official purposes of the State. But, its proviso also states that State by Law provides for the use of English language for the work which was taking place before the commencement of the Constitution of India.
In the case of Dayabhai v. Natwarlal, it was observed that Article 345 is permissive ad does not say that the use of language would be barred after the adoption of Hindi or any other language by a state so as to render an order as void, or any other official proceeding done, in the English language. This can only happen if the Legislature of a state makes a specific provision for barring the use of the English language altogether.
Article 348 states that until and unless Parliament by Law provides, the language to be used in the proceedings of the Supreme Court of India & High Courts, Acts, Bills, Rules & Regulations and Ordinances, shall be in English.
Article 29 of the Indian Constitution deals with the protection of the interests of minorities and states that every citizen of India whether residing in the territory of India or any part thereof, has the right to conserve their distinct language, script or culture.
Article 350B deals with provision for the appointment of Special Officer for the Linguistic minorities by the President and states that it shall be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all the matters in relation to safeguard the linguistic minorities.
Moreover, the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India provides a list of 22 recognised official languages. Those are:
Thus, it can be made clear from the above text that the Constitution of India gives the importance to regional languages. Therefore, making one language a ‘National Language’ is out of the purview of the Indian Constitution as it would harm the Constitutional provisions and also the Fundamental Right of citizens of India. Even at the time of framing of the Constitution of India many debates and controversies were found who opposed the use of one language and to declare Hindi as a National Language and were all taken care of as a country like India has numerous languages and because of which the Indian population is diversified. Giving one language national importance would mean the rule of that language people in India. And, since India is a democratic country so, everyone has their own right to live freely in the way they want. Therefore, declaring one language as a National Language would affect the Indian Democracy to a great extent and will slowly and gradually kill India’s all regional languages.
In the case of R. R. Dalavai v. Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Nadu government granted a pension to anti-Hindu agitators. The Supreme Court held that scheme unconstitutional as it contained the words “the vice of disintegration and fomenting fissiparous tendencies.” and the honorable Court observed that if any state engages in exciting emotions against Hindi or any other language, then such provocation has to be nipped because such provocations are anti-national and anti-democratic tendencies. The state set aside the funds to meet the pension scheme without any legislative sanctions through an executive order. The Honourable Supreme Court ruled that the state government could not authorise the payment of pension by executive order.
The Honourable Supreme Court in the year 1967 upheld the presidential order of making training in Hindi compulsory for the employees of the Central Government below 45 years of age through the case of India v. Murasoli Maran. In this case, the Supreme Court observed that the ultimate object of the Presidential order was to make Hindi an official language.
The Indian Democracy will have a huge negative impact on the Federal form of the Constitution if the One Nation One Language will prevail. This whole concept has always been controversial in Indian democracy as it reflects the insights of the rule of one language-oriented people in society. One needs to understand that the only thing left with India to which the whole world looks up to is its diversity and heritage which was attacked and tried to be ripped off and shattered in the past umpteen times but every time India and its people proved that diversity is not our weakness rather it’s our strength but, such steps in India will lead to impact on the diversity & heritage of India and people will stop believing in the concept of Unity in Diversity, of which India always been proud of. There are already enough criterions like caste, religion, sex, etc. through which the idea of “unity in diversity” is vulnerable. Even the past experiences like division of Pakistan and Bangladesh or declaration of Hindi as an official language by the central government in the 1960’s (which turned into nasty politics and took the lives of many in Tamil Nadu) are enough to intimidate that “One Nation One Language” is not only a distant dream but indeed a nightmare.
- Constitution of India, Universal, 2019.
- M.P. Jain, Indian Constitution Law, 4th edition.
Shreya is an articulate and compendious writer. She loves to explore new things and you will never find her sitting idle. She is a National level Handball player and also plays Basketball.