The Madras High Court has refused to direct the Centre to translate the Constitution in all 22 languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the document.
A bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and N. Kirubakaran pointed out that a Hindi version was prepared even before members of the Constituent Assembly signed it on January 24, 1950 and brought it into force two days later.
The petition was filed by advocate Solai Subramanian seeking a direction to the Department of Official Language under the Union Home Ministry to translate the Constitution into other languages too.
The bench pointed out that the Constituent Assembly had passed a resolution on September 17, 1949 itself to have the Constitution translated and published in Hindi.
Accordingly, a translation was prepared and all members of the Assembly signed both English and Hindi versions in its last session.
However, after 1950, a few changes took place in the style of drafting and all amendments (to the Constitution) were made only in English..
On April 27, 1960, a Presidential Order was issued making it obligatory for certain categories of Central government employees to undergo in-service training to learn Hindi or end up facing penal action.
On January 29, 1971, the First Division Bench of the Madras High Court led by Chief Justice K. Veeraswami quashed the Presidential Order on the ground that it was inconsistent with Section 3 of the Official Languages Act, 1963.
The verdict was passed in a case filed by the then Member of Parliament Murasoli Maran of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The Centre went on appeal and the Supreme Court reversed the High Court judgement on December 6, 1976 by stating that the Presidential Order had been issued only on the basis of recommendations made by the Official Languages Commission constituted in accordance with Article 344 (1) to study the progressive use of Hindi for official purposes after the expiry of five years from the commencement of the Constitution.
It was only after all this that “in the year 1987 (after 40 years of independence and 37 years of the adoption of the Constitution), it was realised that an authoritative text of the Constitution in Hindi, incorporating all the amendments that took place after 1950, was not available.
Though the original text of the Constitution in Hindi was available, the subsequent amendments had not been translated into Hindi.
Hence, it was decided to amend the Constitution so as to empower the President to publish under his authority the translation of the Constitution of India in Hindi signed by the Members of the Constituent Assembly with such modifications as may be necessary to bring it in conformity with the language, style and terminology adopted in the authoritative texts of Central Acts in Hindi Language.
Therefore, the Constitution (56th Amendment) Bill 1987 was introduced to insert Article 394-A. This Bill actually became the Constitution (58th Amendment) Act, 1987.
The object of Article 394-A was to provide authoritative translations of the subsequent amendments alone.
This is not the case with the other languages.
Hence, no mandamus as sought for by the petitioner can be issued,” the judges said stating that the petitioner was under a mistaken impression.