Supreme Court on 4 September 2014 upheld the Uttar Pradesh government decision to use Urdu as second official language in the State.
The judgement was given by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India, R M Lodha. The other judges were Justices Dipak Misra, Madan B. Lokur, Kurien Joseph and S.A. Bobde.
The apex court while upholding the Uttar Pradesh Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1989 said that language laws of the country are not rigid but accommodative to secure the object of linguistic secularism.
Further it noted that nothing in Article 345 of the Constitution bars a state government to declare one or more of languages used in the State, in addition to Hindi, as the second official language. That is, State governments have the right to adopt any language as the second language as long as it is in use in the state and figures in the official languages listed in the Constitution.
The SC bench also noted that there are many States in India which have officially adopted other languages in addition to Hindi. These States include Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi.
Moreover, it noted that National Capital Delhi has adopted Punjabi and Urdu as other officially recognized languages in addition to Hindi. In fact, Bihar was the first state to declare Urdu a second official language in November 1980.
The Uttar Pradesh government in 1989 enacted Uttar Pradesh Official Language (Amendment) Act which recognised Urdu as the second official language of the State.
However, it was challenged by the UP Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in Allahabad High Court in 1996. The Allahabad High Court upheld the UP government’s decision to amend the UP Official Language Act, 1951.
The Sahitya Sammelan then filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Allahabad High Court’s decision claiming that the state government decision had no rationale as there was not much Urdu speaking population in the state.
Article 345 of the Constitution
Article 345 which empowers the State Legislature to make law for adoption of one or more of the languages in use in the State leaves no manner of doubt that such power may be exercised by the State Legislature from time to time.
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What: Upheld by Supreme Court
When: 4 September 2014