Acknowledging a state’s prerogative to declare more than one language as its official language, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a declaration of Urdu as the second official language in Uttar Pradesh.
A five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha ruled there was no constitutional bar against a state government from declaring one or more of languages used in the state, in addition to Hindi, as the second official language.
“It is said that law and language are both organic in their mode of development. In India, these are evolving through the process of accepting legitimate aspirations of the speakers of different languages. Indian language laws are not rigid but accommodative – the object being to secure linguistic secularism,” the bench said.
It said “the plain language of 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”.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and S A Bobde, upheld Uttar Pradesh Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1989, by which Urdu was adopted as second official language of the state. The court said there were many states, including Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which adopted other officially recognised languages in addition to Hindi such as in which would not have been possible but for the constitutional permissibility.
The bench said if Hindi is in use in a particular state then it does not foreclose the state’s power or discretion to adopt any language other than Hindi as the official language provided such language is in use in that State.
It passed the order on a appeal filed by UP Hindi Sahitya Sammelan challenging constitutional validity of Official Language (Amendment) Act 1989 by which Urdu was recognised as second language.