“I have been educated in the Hindi medium throughout. For pursuing higher education, how can I suddenly switch to English?”
This is the primary argument of 20-year-old Ayush Tiwari, a final-year BA student from Allahabad University, who has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court demanding that Delhi University be directed to conduct the entrance examination for its LLB law course in Hindi.
A bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, has accepted the plea – filed through advocate Kamlesh Kumar Mishra – and directed the Bar Council of India, Delhi University (DU) administration, ministry of human resource development and the ministry of law to file counter-arguments.
“The case will be argued upon in the next hearing, on May 17,” Ayush told Newslaundry.
In 2014, a similar petition was filed by Shailendra Mani Tripathi and rejected. A report in The Indian Express said that while dismissing the PIL, the high court’s division bench had observed: “We cannot shut our eyes also to the fact that the language of the courts, particularly in Delhi, primarily remains English and the judgments of the courts are pronounced and reported in the English language.”
On this, lawyer Kamlesh pointed out that “the nature of demands were different in both cases”.
“Previously, the plea was presented as a matter of right, but now the argument is that if a person has studied throughout in the medium of Hindi, should he be deprived of further studies only because he is not well-versed with English?” he said.
Ayush pointed out to the court that it would be unfair for him to take the law entrance exam in English when the university allows term examination for the course to be taken in Hindi.
DU had earlier argued that the entrance exam is an objective test while semester exams are subjective ones. Hence, students can take term-end examinations in Hindi as they might not be comfortable answering subjective questions in English.
This time, Maharaj K Pandit, head of DU’s admissions committee, when contacted said: “I do not know what the response of Delhi University would be.”
In India, almost half the students study in Hindi-medium schools.
Apoorvanand, DU professor in the Hindi department, is in favour of the petition. “It is a valid demand. In Delhi, most government schools are Hindi-medium. Not only for law, even for courses like history and political science, the medium of instruction should be Hindi. And why only Hindi? I would urge the authorities to invest in resources so that entrance exams as well as medium of instruction can be other regional languages.”
Ayush has substantiated his plea by saying that in DU, entrance exams are conducted in Hindi for courses such as MA and LLM, while LLB is the lone exception.
The UPSC and other central universities like Banaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University offer entrance exams in Hindi. In the UPSC mains, it is compulsory to take the English exam but it is only a qualifying one. The marks obtained are not counted in the final ranking.
When it comes to the Indian Constitution, Hindi is the official language of the union, but because Parliament continued to hold proceedings in English ever since the Constitution came into effect, both languages are allowed in the union.
The Constitution has mandated the use of English as the official language of the Supreme Court and other high courts.
But, Kamlesh said, “English is the official language of the apex court and high courts only. In the lower courts, proceedings can be conducted in the local language. For example, in the Salman Khan case, the entire proceedings in the Jodhpur court were conducted in Hindi. The verdict was also pronounced in Hindi”.
Ayush insists that he is not “anti-English”. In his current course, one of his subjects is English. “It is not necessary that I will practice in the Delhi High Court only. I can go back to my village and fight cases there in Hindi. But give me a chance at least. Right now, I cannot even take the entrance exam,” he said.
Rakesh Vishvakarma, a PhD scholar at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University in Maharashtra, made another point. “The location of the university should be the criteria for choosing which language should be made mandatory. Language should not be the basis of testing anybody’s knowledge,” he said.