Constitution

This article is written by Satyaki Deb, a B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) student from the Department of Law, Calcutta University. This article provides an exhaustive overview of the Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003 and its related concepts from an analytical viewpoint.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

Language is something that is crucial to our form of expression as human beings. If that form of expression or language fails to get recognised, then that language will forever be cursed to the shadows along with the people practising the same. The people whose mother tongues fail to get recognised at par with other major languages shy away in public from speaking their own mother tongues and this, in turn, hastens the decay of the unrecognised languages. The Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003 attempted to address this situation to some extent by the addition of four languages namely- Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and officially recognising them.

What is the 92nd Constitutional Amendment

The Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003 ushered in four languages namely- Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, and Santhali into the ambit of the Eighth Schedule. The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution contains the languages that the Union of India recognises as official languages. There was a lot of demand to include various languages in this Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. To pay heed to this demand, the then Deputy Prime Minister of India Lal Krishna Advani introduced the (One-Hundredth Amendment) Bill, 2003 (Bill No. 63 of 2003) on 18th August 2003 in the Lok Sabha or the Lower House. This Bill originally sought to add only the Bodo language under the domain of the Eighth Schedule.

Later on, during parliamentary discussions, while this Bill was being debated, Lal Krishna Advani proposed to amend this Bill in order to include three more languages under the umbrella of the Eight Schedule, namely- Dogri, Maithili, Santhali. This proposed amendment was accepted by the honourable members of the House and the Bill got passed on 22nd December, 2003 in the Lok Sabha, or the Lower House and on 23rd December, 2003 in the Rajya Sabha, or the Upper House in the same form as passed by the Lower House. While the Bill was being passed in the Lok Sabha, a formal amendment was made to the short title of the Bill by virtue of which ‘One Hundredth’ was replaced by ‘Ninety Second’. So, the Bill came into force with the assent of the President of India on 7th January, 2004 and came to be known as the Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003.

What is the Eighth Schedule in the Indian Constitution

Every Schedule in the Indian Constitution deals with various topics and the Eight Schedule contains the list of languages officially recognised by the Union of India. At present, the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains 22 languages. But originally there were only 14 languages. Eight more languages were added by subsequent amendments. The 14 original languages and the added eight other languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution are as follows:

  1. Assamese,
  2. Bengali,
  3. Bodo  (added by the Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003),
  4. Dogri  (added by the Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003),
  5. Gujarati,
  6. Hindi,
  7. Kannada,
  8. Kashmiri,
  9. Konkani (added by the Constitution (71st Amendment) Act, 1992),
  10. Maithili  (added by the Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003),
  11. Malayalam,
  12. Manipuri  (added by the Constitution (71st Amendment) Act, 1992),
  13. Marathi,
  14. Nepali  (added by the Constitution (71st Amendment) Act, 1992),
  15. Oriya,
  16. Punjabi,
  17. Sanskrit,
  18. Santhali  (added by the Constitution (92nd Amendment) Act, 2003),
  19. Sindhi (added by the Constitution (21st Amendment) Act, 1967),
  20. Tamil,
  21. Telugu,
  22. Urdu.

Significance of the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution

It is pertinent to understand the significance of the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution in order to fully comprehend what it means for a language to be present in this Schedule and the constitutional amendments done so far in order to add more languages to the original list of languages in this Schedule.

India is a land of diversity with hundreds of languages being spoken. It is practically impossible to officially recognise all of these languages. Now, the obvious question that arises is why is it practically impossible to recognise all languages used in India by her people? The answer lies in the privileges enjoyed by the languages present in the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. Being mentioned or added in this Schedule signifies two things mainly, viz:

Firstly, the language is a developed language and developed enough to be used in multiple domains. Added to this, another significance that has come up off late on top of this is that the Government of India is under an obligation to take active steps for the development of these languages so that they can grow in richness and can become effective tools for communication of knowledge in this modern world.

Secondly, it is to be noted that two articles in the Indian Constitution have been mentioned in the Eighth Schedule viz, Article 344(1) (’Commission and Committee of Parliament on official language’) and Article 351 (’Directive for development of the Hindi language’). As a matter of corollary, these two articles also mention the Eighth Schedule in the wordings of their provisions. So, it becomes very important to understand what these articles envisage. They are briefly discussed below:

  • According to Article 344(1) of the Indian Constitution, “The President shall, at the expiration of five years from the commencement of this Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, by order constitute a Commission which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members representing the different languages specified in the Eighth Schedule as the President may appoint, and the order shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission.”  

In other words, this Clause (1) of Article 344 of the Indian Constitution provides for the making of a Commission by the President of India five years from the commencement of the Indian Constitution that is from 26th January, 1950 and thereafter form such Commission with an interval of ten years as in 1955, 1965, 1975 and so on. The purpose of this Commission shall be to use the different languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule and use the same for the enrichment and progressive uses of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union. Thus, the forms, styles, expressions, vocabulary of the different languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule will be used to promote the progressive use of Hindi and enrichment of that language. Needless to say, the different languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule will flourish too as they enrich the Hindi language.

  • According to Article 351 of the Indian Constitution, “It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.” 

In other words, the provisions of Article 351 read with Article 344(1) clearly show that the Union of India has been duty bound to work on the enrichment and development of the different languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule. A language grows and flourishes with increased usage, state patronage and assimilation with other languages and the different languages mentioned in this Eighth Schedule get these privileges by virtue of the provisions of Article 344(1) and Article 351 of the Indian Constitution.

Criteria for addition of languages to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution

In order to avoid arbitrariness and inequality, it became paramount to develop some criteria based on which languages can be added to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution from time to time. The first attempt in this direction was by the formation of the Pahwa Committee in 1996 under the Chairmanship of Sri Ashok Pahwa, Secretary (OL), MHA. As a follow up measure, the Mohapatra Committee was formed in 2003 under Sri Sitakant Mohapatra. This was a committee of linguistic experts and they were tasked to formulate some objective criteria based on which examination for the purposes of addition of more languages to the Eighth Schedule can be made. This Committee submitted its report in 2004. But unfortunately, there was gross divergence of opinion regarding the objective criteria formulated and submitted by the Mohapatra Committee. The magnitude of divergence of opinions was so widespread that despite several inter ministerial meetings happening and committees being formed, no objective criteria could be finalised upon till date.

At present, due to the failure of the Pahwa Committee and Mohapatra Committee and other related factors, no criteria for addition of languages to the Eighth Schedule have been laid down so far. The Government of India is aware of the sentiments of the people whose languages have still not been added and based on various considerations such as evolution of dialects into languages, widespread use of a language etc. in the future more languages will surely be added to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution by constitutional amendments.

Analysis of the 92nd Constitutional Amendment

After the 21st Constitutional Amendment Act, 1967 and the 71st Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, there came another amendment to the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution by the 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003 by virtue of which four more languages were added to this Eighth Schedule. 

To date, despite vehement demands of addition of many more languages like “(1) Angika, (2) Banjara, (3) Bazika, (4) Bhojpuri, (5) Bhoti, (6) Bhotia, (7) Bundelkhandi (8) Chhattisgarhi, (9) Dhatki, (10) English, (11) Garhwali (Pahari), (12) Gondi, (13) Gujjar/Gujjari (14) Ho, (15) Kachachhi, (16) Kamtapuri, (17) Karbi, (18) Khasi, (19) Kodava (Coorg), (20) Kok Barak, (21) Kumaoni (Pahari), (22) Kurak, (23) Kurmali, (24) Lepcha, (25) Limbu, (26) Mizo (Lushai), (27) Magahi, (28) Mundari, (29) Nagpuri, (30) Nicobarese, (31) Pahari (Himachali), (32) Pali, (33) Rajasthani, (34) Sambalpuri/Kosali, (35) Shaurseni (Prakrit), (36) Siraiki, (37) Tenyidi and (38) Tulu” no further additions have been made to the languages of the Eighth Schedule.

Addition of languages by the 92nd Constitutional Amendment and its necessity

It is only natural that if we do not practise a language or feel shy to converse in it, that language gradually withers away into extinction. Mother tongues are very significant parts of our lives, especially for the minorities like tribal people. So, in order to protect and help in the development of the languages of Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali, they were added to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution by the 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003. Each of these languages have been briefly discussed below:

Bodo

Bodo is the language that is spoken in the north eastern states of India like Assam, Meghalaya and also in some areas of Bangladesh. It is a Tibeto Burman branch of the Sino Tibetan language and has several dialects. It can be written in Latin, Devanagari and Bengali scripts and is related to Dimasa, Tripura and Lalunga languages.

Dogri

Nearly two million people speak this Indo Aryan Dogri language. Mostly, this language is spoken by people in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir, in northern Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, certain areas of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Pakistan, etc.

Maithili

More than 34.7 million people, mostly residing in northern India and Nepal speak this Indo Aryan language. Presently, the script followed is the Devanagari script but in the past Mithilakshar script was also in use. It is one of the largest spoken languages in India and is the second most widely used language in Nepal.

Santhali

More than 6.2 million people speak this language in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. In India, it is mainly spoken in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam and Tripura. This Santhali language is related to Ho and Mundari languages and is a language in the Munda subfamily of Austro-Asiatic languages. Santhali is presently written in the ‘Ol Chiki’ script created by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925.

Other amendments by the 92nd Constitutional Amendment

It is a common misconception that there were no other provisions in the 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 2003 other than the addition of the four languages of Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali. But the following provisions were also a part of the amending Act, viz-

  • Insertion of new Article 268A- This provision was fully repealed by the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment Act), 2016 after the introduction of GST.
  • Amendment of Article 270- In Clause (1) of Article 270, the words “articles 268 and 269” were replaced by “articles 268, 268A and 269”. Later on, by the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment Act), 2016, “articles 268, 268A and 269” has been substituted by “articles 268, 269 and 269A”.
  • Amendment of Seventh Schedule- By this constitutional amendment, “Entry 92C -Taxes on services” was added to List I or the Union List. Later, this Entry 92C was omitted by the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment Act), 2016.

Conclusion

In a country as diverse as India, it is very unfortunate that only 22 languages are officially recognised by the Government of India by placing them in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Since the 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 2003, almost two decades later, no further additions have still been made to the Eighth Schedule despite vehement demands of inclusion of about 38 other languages. The failure to even formulate any objective criteria for the addition of languages in the Eighth Schedule is indeed a sorry state of affairs. Hopefully, more languages will soon get official recognition by being added to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. 

References

  1. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/786004/
  2. https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/EighthSchedule_19052017.pdf 
  3. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24158488

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