POST TIME: 22 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Bangla still getting the cold shoulder in higher judiciary
CJ assures to take steps for increasing use of Bangla
Muhammad Yeasin

Bangla still getting the cold shoulder in higher judiciary

Seven years have passed since the Law Commission (LC) recommended the use of Bengali in every judicial activity to ensure its easy access, but the government is yet to take any initiative in this regard.

On February 9, 2011, the LC had recommended to the law ministry to take steps for the use of Bengali in the judiciary before International Mother Language Day on February 21 that year.

Besides, the High Court (HC) had issued a rule on February 17, 2014, asking the government to implement and ensure the use of Bengali language everywhere, including signboards, banners, electronic media advertisements, nameplates, and vehicle number plates, within May 15 of that year. But the government is yet to implement the HC order properly. However, chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain yesterday said that he would take initiative for increasing the use of Bangla in every sector of the higher judiciary.

 “Using of Bangla in the higher judiciary is being ensured. I will take initiative for increasing the use of Bangla in the judicial activities of the higher court,” the chief justice made the observations while taking reporters after paying the homage by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar to the martyrs of the 1952 historic Language Movement.

He also informed that a number of judges of the High Court Division are now delivering the verdicts in Bangla. Sometimes hearing is also taking placed in Bangla. So, it is not right that the Bangla is not being used in the higher judiciary, he noted.  

In its report, the LC had stated that although Bengali was declared as the state language of Bangladesh in Article 3 of the Constitution, it was still being neglected in courts even 64 years after the Language Movement of 1952.

The commission said the Bangla Bhasha Procholon Ain (Bengali Language Implementation Act) was passed in 1987 to ensure compulsory use of Bengali in courts and offices, but it was not implemented.

Notwithstanding these provisions, English was still used in the judicial system. It was seen that delivering judgments in English often created confusion for the masses as most of them spoke Bengali. The language of courts should follow the language of the common people, the commission added.

The LC report said the three organs of the state—the executive, legislature and judiciary—continue to use Bengali for their official work.

In the case of Hasmat Ullah vs. Azmeri Bibi and others, the HC said the government did not make any declaration regarding Bengali under Section 137(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP).

After this, the authorities could not to use Bengali in daily judicial activities. It stated that the CrPC and CCP were mainly responsible for creating obstacles in the use of Bengali in the judiciary’s activities.

According to the CCP’s Section 137(1), the language which, on the commencement of this Code, is the language of any court subordinate to the High Court Division should continue to be the language of such subordinate court, until the government directs otherwise. Section 137(2) of the CCP says that the government may declare what the language of any such court shall be, and in what characters the applications and proceedings in such court shall be written.

On the other hand, Section 558 of the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC) states that the government may determine what—for the purposes of this code—shall be deemed to be the language of each court within the territories administered by it.

Under these circumstances, the government could make two announcements under Section 558 of the CrPC, 1898, and Section 137(2) of the CCP, 1908, to start the use of Bengali in the judiciary, the LC report stated.

Former chief justice ABM Khairul Haque, who is now the LC chairman, had delivered verdicts and orders in Bengali during his tenure as an HC judge. After his retirement, a few HC judges had sometimes delivered verdicts and orders in Bengali.

After placing wreath at the Central Shaheed Minar, law commission chairman and former chief justice ABM Khairul Haque urged the authorities concerned to take initiative for using Bangla in higher judiciary.

“Using of Bangla in every sector of the higher judiciary including judicial proceedings should be increased. It is possible, if the chief justice and other judges of the High Court Division are deemed to use the Bangla in the judicial proceedings,” he said.

Delivering verdicts in Bengali is not unprecedented in the Supreme Court. Benches sometimes conduct judicial proceedings, including delivery of verdict, in Bengali. But traditionally, the language is English.

Former chief justice Habibur Rahman, Justice ARM Amirul Islam Chowdhury, Justice Kazi Ebadul Haque, Justice Hamidul Huq, Justice Moazzem Hossain and Justice M Abdul Quddus had delivered verdicts in Bengali in one or two cases, said Supreme Court lawyers.

On a discussion titled “Mother Tongue and Local Culture” at the SC Bar Association auditorium on December 3, 2015, former chief justice SK Sinha said: “Bengali is widely used in the lower courts of Bangladesh and the practice should be introduced in the higher courts as well.”