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Supreme Court set to turn multi-lingual

Judgments on website in five more languages
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
PTI Photo

R. Balaji   |   New Delhi   |   Published 03.07.19, 01:15 AM

The Supreme Court will soon start simultaneously publishing judgments in five regional languages along with English, the first apex court in the world to choose multiple languages for delivering verdicts.

Courts across the world pass judgments in either English or the native language. Apart from English, the Supreme Court will from now on upload on its official website judgments in Hindi, Telugu, Assamese, Kannada and Odia, apart from English. There are plans to publish judgments in other regional languages too, sources in the judiciary said.

According to the sources, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has formally cleared the use of an indigenously developed software by the Supreme Court’s “in-house” electronic software wing for uploading the translated judgments.

If things go according to plan, the Supreme Court will start uploading judgments in six languages on its website in a week or 10 days.

The sources credited President Ram Nath Kovind with the idea of delivering judgments also in regional languages. Kovind had at a conference of legal experts in Kochi, Kerala, in October 2017 underscored the need to deliver judgments in regional languages, against the current practice of using only English.

Justice Gogoi, the sources said, worked on the plan with the registry staff for the past two years and took it to fruition after becoming the Chief Justice last October.

“This will be the first time in the country that the Supreme Court will deliver judgments translated into vernacular languages for the information of the general public. As a beginning, along with English, which is the official language of the Supreme Court, judgments will also be delivered in Telugu, Assamese, Hindi, Kannada and Odia,” a source said.

Asked why these languages were chosen, the sources said the decision was taken on the basis of the volume of appeals coming to the apex court from the high courts of the states where these are predominantly spoken.

The sources said Hindi was spoken in most northern states, and the other languages had been chosen keeping in mind the concerns and interests of the non-Hindi-speaking states.

According to the sources, priority will initially be given to cases relating to individual litigants in civil disputes, criminal matters, landlord-tenant issues and matrimonial discord. “This is because the idea is to ensure that the judgment is easily understood by the litigant, who may not be conversant with English,” a source said.

During an informal conversation with journalists on November 2, 2018, CJI Gogoi had expressed determination to ensure that judgments are delivered in various regional languages so that the complexities are easily understood by the common man, who pays high fees to lawyers.

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