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21 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 21 February, 2019 02:21:07 AM
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Bangla still neglected in higher judiciary

Muhammad Yeasin, Dhaka

The use of Bangla in all spheres of life is yet to be ensured even 67 years after it was established as the state language. Though there is a legal stipulation for the use of Bangla, it is still largely ignored at government and non-government offices.

Besides, the government too has not taken any initiative on the recommendation of the Law Commission (LC) for the use of Bangla in every judicial activity to ensure its easy access. On February 9, 2011, the LC had recommended to the law ministry to take steps for the use of Bangla in the judiciary before International Mother Language Day (February 21) that year.

And the country’s higher judiciary is no exception. The High Court (HC) had issued a rule on February 17, 2014, asking the government to implement and ensure the use of Bangla 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.

The Supreme Court was formed based on the country’s Constitution that categorically states that the state language of Bangladesh shall be Bangla. Also, the Ershad regime had passed the Bengali Language Implementation Act 1987 to ensure the use of Bangla in all state offices. But, the government is still unable to ensure the use of Bangla everywhere in line with the Constitution, LC’s recommendation and the HC’s orders.

Last year, however, Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain said he would take an initiative for increasing the use of Bangla in every sphere of the higher judiciary.

“The use of Bengali in the higher judiciary will be ensured. I will take the initiative for increasing the use of the language in the activities of the higher courts,” the CJ told reporters after paying homage to the martyrs of the historic 1952 Language Movement at Central Shaheed Minar.

He also informed that many judges of the High Court Division were now delivering verdicts in the state language and sometimes, the hearing also took place in Bangla. “So, it is not right that Bangla is not being used in the higher judiciary,” he added.

In its report, the LC had stated that although Bangla was declared as the state language of Bangladesh as per Article 3 of the Constitution, it was still being neglected in courts.

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

Notwithstanding these provisions, English was still used in the judicial system. It was noted 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 Bangla 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 Bangla under Section 137(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP).

After this, the authorities could not to use Bangla in daily judicial activities. It stated that the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC) and CCP were mainly responsible for creating obstacles in the use of Bangla in judicial activities.

The CCP’s Section 137(1) states: “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 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 Bangla 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 Bangla during his tenure as an HC judge. After his retirement, a few HC judges had sometimes delivered verdicts and orders in Bangla.

Last year, Haque had urged the authorities concerned to take initiative for using Bangla in higher judiciary.

“The use 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 deem to use Bengali in judicial proceedings,” he said. “A judge has to have good will and desire to deliver judgments in the state language,” he added.

Delivering verdicts in Bangla is not unprecedented in the Supreme Court. Benches sometimes conduct judicial proceedings, including delivery of verdict, in Bangla. 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 Bangla in one or two cases, said Supreme Court lawyers. At a discussion titled “Mother Tongue and Local Culture” at the SC Bar Association auditorium on December 3, 2015, former Chief Justice SK Sinha said: “Bangla is widely used in the lower courts of Bangladesh and the practice should be introduced in the higher courts as well.”

Former chief justice ABM Khairul Haque, who is now Law Commission chairman, wrote and delivered a good number of verdicts in the state language.

The incumbent LC chairman suggested taking help from linguists to write judgments in Bangla.

Khairul said his commission has been preparing a Bangla lexicon for legal purposes. “We already have a workbook. Now, we are working to expand its scope and prepare two volumes involving more legal terminologies. I think the volumes will greatly help judges to pass verdicts and orders in the vernacular language,” he added.

 

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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