The Official Languages Act, 1963

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The Official Languages Act, 1963 (Act No. 19 of 1963) dated 10th May, 1963, was the Act of Parliament and enacted with the view to provide for official useful languages for the Union, transaction of business in Parliament and for Central and State enactments and also for High Courts relating to certain purposes. The provisions of this Act contained under Section 6 and 7, were not to be applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir as per Section 9 of the Act.

The short title and date of commencement is provided under first section of the Act, wherein the Act was named as ‘The Official Languages Act, 1963’ and also the date on which provisions to come into effect is given as, for Section 3 the date is given in the Act itself i.e. 26th January, 1965 and for other remaining provisions the Central Government is required to provide date on which those provisions either differently or commonly should come into effect. The Section 5(1) of the Act came into force on 10th January, 1965, Section 5(6) of the Act brought to effect on 19th May, 1969, Section 5(7) of the Act was brought into effect on 7th March, 1970 and Section 5(2) of the Act was given effect on 1st October, 1976. Further, Section 2 of the Act deals with certain definitions of terms including ‘appointed days’ which meant the 26th January, 1965 and other dates which the Central Government will provides for bringing into effect the provisions of this Act. And another term is ‘Hindi’ which meant language in devnagari script.

The English language was used at federal level during British Era in India. However, after the adoption of Constitution of India in the year 1950 the provisions for using Hindi language in place of English was provided for over 15 years period and with this the Parliament was given power to enact law for providing continued use of English language even after laps of such 15 years period. As such the important provisions relating to official language for Union and for use of Parliament, are provided under Section 3 of the Act, where it is given that, the English Language in addition with the Hindi language, should continue to be used as official language, for the official purposes of Union, transaction of business in Parliament even for communication purposes between Union and States in which Hindi Language is not adopted as official language. Similarly, the English language to be further used for the purpose of communication between one Ministry, Department or Office of Union and another, or between such one Ministry, etc. and any corporation or company under control of the Central Government or even between any corporation or company controlled by the Central Government and another. And if such communication is held by using Hindi or English language, the translation of such communication in English language or Hindi language to be provided till the staff thereof understand the working knowledge of Hindi. Similarly, both Hindi and English languages can be used for resolutions, general orders, rules, notifications and other purposes given under Sub Section (3) of the provision. Moreover, the Central Government is empowered to provide for any other different languages to be used for such official purposes for quick disposal of official transactions and also considering the interests of general public.

Similarly, Section 4 of the Act is important so far as it speaks for formation of Committee on Official Language on expiration of 10 years of appointed day as aforesaid. The Committee should be constituted by resolution and with the prior sanction of President. This Committee should comprise of 30 members in all out of which 20 members should be from House of People and 10 from amongst he members of Council of States. Such members should be elected by members of House of People and Council of States. Sub Section (3) of the provision deals with duty of Committee to make review about the progress in using Hindi language as an official language for Union and on such review it is required to submit a report to the President. Under such report the Committee is entitled to make recommendations and the President after going through such recommendations should cause such report to be tabled before Houses of Parliament and sent it to the all the State Governments and the President can also direct in furtherance of such report or recommendations.

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Moreover, the translation of Central Government Enactments, Ordinances, Orders, Rules, bye-law, in Hindi language is permitted under Section 5 of the Act. And also from the appointed day the authoritative text in the English language of all Bills or Amendments should be tabled to either House of Parliament accompanied with translation in Hindi.  Similarly, in case of Acts and ordinances passed or promulgated under States authority other than Hindi language should be translated Hindi and English language should be published by the Government of such States as required under Section 6 of the Act. Section 7 of the Act says that, the Governor of the States can with prior permission of President of India authorize the using of Hindi or other language being official, in addition to English Language for writing judgments or decree or even any order with its additional translation in English Language.

Further, section 8 of the Act empowers the Central Government to make rules as similar to the purposes of the Act and also on the matters essential to carry on the purposes and object of this Act. Such rules are required to be tabled before each Houses of the Parliament during its session.

Besides this Act, the Official Languages (Use for Official Purpose of the Union) Rules, 1976 and other State Laws also provided on same topic.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.