When Precedent Precedes the Constitution

Union ministers and MPs from Tamil Nadu, who made a plea to parliament authorities to allow them to raise and answer questions in Tamil, have been given an answer which betrays the extra-constitutional glorification of Hindi inside the parliament itself. Here's how you can break up the answer given by Lok Sabha Secretary General Mr. P.D.T. Achary:
  1. MPs can ask questions in their mother-tongues
  2. Ministers cannot ask questions in their mother-tongues. They have to use English or Hindi.
  3. MPs can make speeches in their mother-tongues.
  4. Ministers cannot make speeches in their mother-tongues. They have to use English or Hindi.
  5. Ministers cannot answer questions in their mother-tongues. They have to use English or Hindi.
In not giving permission to Ministers while asking questions and making speeches, Mr. Achary seems to wrongly quote the Constitution of India, claiming that it allows MPs the right to speak in their languages, but not Ministers. In reality, the constitution seems to make no such distinction between Ministers and MPs. Here's what Article 120(1) states in this regard (note "any member"):
120. (1) Notwithstanding anything in Part XVII, but subject to the provisions of article 348, business in Parliament shall be transacted in Hindi or in English: Provided that the Chairman of the Council of States or Speaker of the House of the People, or person acting as such, as the case may be, may permit any member who cannot adequately express himself in Hindi or in English to address the House in his mother-tongue.
Of course the undemocratic insistence that all members should "adequately express" themselves "in Hindi or in English" needs to be amended (at least to the extent that Hindi is removed from that list), but Mr. Achary's belief that his unbalanced treatment to MPs and Ministers has constitutional sanction looks to be untrue. Even if one were to interpret "any member" as "any member of parliament", there is sufficient slack in that term itself - since Ministers are, in general, members of parliament (or must be within 6 months of assuming office).

Also, in denying permission to Ministers to answer questions in their mother-tongues, Mr. Achary refers not to the constitution, but to precedent! How disappointing! In reality, Mr. Achary would have done nothing unconstitutional if he had indeed allowed Tamil to be used by Ministers. But when precedent takes precedence over the constitution, can there be any justice? And - is this whole unbalanced treatment to MPs and Ministers stemming from the fear that what Ministers say tends to get to the international media to which we want to pretend as a country which speaks either Hindi or English?


Chetan said...

Well said Kiran,
I hope the usage of government machinery will go on until some body gives these people a strong message that how truly/ideally a central government should be.
In September as we know that central government will observe this as "Hindi saptaaha", which has made itself clear that the main objective of this saptaaha is to impose Hindi on non hindi speaking states and make room for the Hindi speaking people.
I would like to say a fact which i read in a news paper where karunaanidhi has made a wise move by asking the central government to give more powers to state, which fulfills the ideal federal setup idea.
Point to be noted here is that the current finance minister had urged then central government to give more powers to the state. but the irony is that the same person who had fought for the same cause is not at the other end to deny the proposal...

The article has come up very well keep writing.........

Chetan said...

sorry there is a typo in my previous comment.
please read the last two lines as below:
"but the irony is that the same person who had fought for the same cause is at the other end to deny the proposal..."

Thank you

சுரேஷ் ஜீவானந்தம் | Suresh Jeevanandam said...

This is definitely undemocratic; I wish the representatives of other non-Hindi states joined hands with the Tamil MPs.

I wonder if the Secretary Generals decision can be challenged in a Court if it is unconstitutional. Can't it be argued that it is against some fundamental right.

சுரேஷ் ஜீவானந்தம் | Suresh Jeevanandam said...

>> I wish the representatives of other non-Hindi states joined hands with the Tamil MP.
I meant "joined hands to get the right to speak in one's language."

Radha said...

I have to mention that the Tamil Nadu govt. under different parties has long been asking for devolution of powers to the state and is not new. We are speaking to folks who don't want to understand. What should we do?

Rohith B R said...

This is a strong indication of the incapacity of the central govt machinery to scale to modern times. People are maturing and so are their representatives.

This is a cheap display of power by the ruling alliance-formed govt., when its duty instead is to, at least, maintain true-spirit of the alliance it has entered into to form a govt.

In this context, it was a sad scene when Karnataka's Kharge (Labour minister) succumbed (without protest) and spoke in a somewhat incomprehensible Hindi in the house. This is what is failing our system. There is not enough volume to the protesting voice against such "unconstitutional" ways of shoving hindi into the annals of parliament, and into the throats of representatives of Indian citizens.

Priyank said...

Adding to Suresh jeevanandam's comment,

not only non-hindi state representatives, even the representatives of hindi states should join the Tamil MPs and ministers to show their belief in the constitution.

Thennavan said...

I would like to point out to one recent incidence in Tamil Nadu promoting a federal India. The incidence is the function for the centenary celebration of Annadurai (the founder of DMK and the first non-congress CM of Tamil Nadu) who always advocated for a federal India. In the function, also attended Mr. Pranab Mukerjee, Mr. Karunanidhi has demanded more autonomy for states and equal official treatment of all Indian languages at the Centre. He has also clarified that Tamils are not against any language including Hindi but for the political equality of all languages at the Centre and also demanded that Tamil be made an official language at the Centre.

At this juncture, a similar demand from other non-Hindi states or at least one more state like Karnataka will go a long way in achieving the federalism in India. But, will anybody else make such a demand? At least, the KARNATIQUE team and its kannada brothren can prevail upon organizations like KRV to work for federalism and political equality of languages in India.

Mannaran said...

Dear Karnatique,

There is no doubt, what Department of Official Language(DOL) is doing. Let me give you a pre cursor. DOL is coming under Ministry of Home Affairs. Its website is rajbasha.nic.in. I have seen the recommendation given by DOL to president in 2008. Most of it prove without any doubt they are hell bent to push Hindi, using the taxes paid by us. Here are some examples
1. Appointing Hindi officers in C areas(C is states like KA, TN, KL)
2. Creating Hindi posts in all Central Govt Offices.
3. Giving Hindi ads in English papers and English ads in Hindi papers(Total crap! do you understand why this is done?)
4. Central Govt Education programme is funding lot of state govt run schools in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as far as I have seen(schools with two kids sitting on the edge of the pencil). DOL have proposed to make Hindi medium compulsary there.
5. Preferential treatment in Salary and Promotion for Hindi officers etc.

Fortunately, most of the insane ideas are rejected by President.

What do you call this? Is it not totally insane to give our hard earned money as tax to help somebody push Hindi on us?. It is mainly because of this article in constitution, which asks for progressive use of Hindi.

Fedaralism is too much as of now. First we should equal rights for all Indian Languages. That would be the first step. For this to happen we need to amend the constitution. Anybody know how? I strongly urge you @ Karnatique to have look at the PDF files at DOL website and write a blog about it.

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