This article is written by Sakshi Jaiswal (with inputs from Shweta Devgan) Judiciary Team, LawSikho.
“Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.” – Nelson Mandela
The English language has dominated the entire world for the past many decades, more so in India being its additional official language post-independence as mandated by the Constitution.
1857 saw the inception of legal education in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.
At that time, a person who knew English was qualified to pursue law. Over the years that followed, the English language became the sole official language of the judiciary of India…
…the exception being when a certain State Governor or Legislature mandated the use of regional language or when the President himself has given assent to the usage of regional language in courts such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
But even then, not knowing English is not really an option for a judge or a lawyer because it is the language of records of the highest courts in the country.
In this article, we are going to figure out whether English is indeed an indispensable language to acquire.
What is the relevance of the language for the judiciary examinations? Are there any tangible benefits in mastering English as a language?
First things first, English communication skills can be an asset in any career you choose to pursue. Whether it is in the hospitality sector or as a management professional, strong English communication skills will always stand you in good stead. And more so in the legal profession. (We will come to that later.)
Should you despise your mother tongue though? Absolutely not. You are who you are because of the language you were born with.
When it comes to communicating with the world though, you need to acquire new language skills. It will only enrich you, not take away the cultural heritage of your own language. Do not worry.
It’s not like that regional languages are useless in the legal profession. Quite the contrary anyway. In fact, it is very much needed as long as you practise in the district courts. Sometimes, it’s not even a choice but rather a prerequisite. Not in theory but in practice.
Let’s just say that knowledge of both languages is required and can come handy at certain times. Neglecting either is not a wise choice. However, if you are not that strong in English, you might be thinking, “Do I need to focus hard on learning it? What’s in it for me?”
To that, let’s quickly analyse the benefits of the English language for our fellow judicial service aspirants. Please note that my analysis herein includes the hurdles you may face in your journey from your examination preparation till the time you become a ‘Judge’.
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THE ‘EXAMINATION’ PERSPECTIVE
Well, as you may know, the Judicial Service Mains Examination curtains a compulsory language paper which includes English, along with your native language paper, which may be different depending on the State that you are appearing for.
This paper acts as a qualifier in most of the States and the marks you obtain in the language paper are then added to the other subject marks to finally determine if you qualified for the interview.
But before you qualify for the mains examination, you have to clear the prelim which again includes English under its syllabus.
While preparing for law subjects, aspirants often ignore English, which if you scrutinize can either ‘make’ or ‘break’ your score. It has been witnessed over the years that a person who tends to score higher in the language paper usually gets selected in the final rounds as well.
A subject like English should be practised at least for half an hour every day while preparation and it will act as an asset for both prelims and mains examinations.
By the way, English is included in almost all examinations, whether government or private. Once you prepare this subject for one examination, you automatically prepare for the rest as well.
INTERPRETATIONS OF HIGHER COURT JUDGMENTS
If you are in the field of law, this is probably a skill you cannot afford to not have at any cost. I didn’t say that for lawyers only. It is the same for every professional who is directly or indirectly related to the legal profession.
Whether as a litigator, corporate lawyer, legal journalist, in-house counsel or judicial services aspirant, you need to read and interpret judgements of higher courts. Higher courts include the Supreme Court and the High Court, and the work that goes on there is usually conducted in English language.
The judgements pronounced by these courts act as precedents for interpretation of various laws in the country.
Recently, the translated versions of these judgements are uploaded on the Supreme Court website but the proceedings of these Courts take place in English strictly. So, if you have been thinking that you would manage with your vernacular language, it might not be totally feasible.
On top of that, any judicial service aspirant would know that these judgements, in their original version, need to be read, understood and memorised to aptly prepare for the examination. Fluency in the subject will not only help you crack the exam but also prepare you for a better future in the field.
With that, I would also like to add that any individual entering into any profession seeks to reach the epitome of that profession one day. Similarly, a judicial service aspirant will also aspire to be the judge of the high court or supreme court one day after entering the profession, hence the English language will not only be with you while preparing for the exams but till you reach the epitome of your success.
BETTER LEGAL UNDERSTANDING
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the country, and is considered the “mother of all laws” of the land. It was first written in English in 1949 and later translated to Hindi in 1950.
So, do you need to read it in English? Whatever suits you. But it is always preferable to read the English version of it too. The best commentaries are all in English anyway. I have no clue if you can really learn constitutional law in Hindi, much less another local language, honestly, and I don’t even want to venture a guess.
If you know the language well, your chance of digging deep inside and in between the lines and figuring out the actual intent behind the script increases manifolds.
Jurisprudence is yet another subject dreaded by the aspirants and law students and which includes the historical development of law itself. What we forget is that law has not been made overnight and is a derivative result of decades-long practices in multiple international jurisdictions.
To better understand such customs, traditions and practices, it is favourable to read and understand the law, which can only happen if you know the language it is written in.
Our central and state statutes are also primarily written in English. Unfortunately, to bypass English as a language would not only be a grave mistake if you are a judiciary aspirate but rather an insurmountable obstacle if you want to build your career in the field of law.
ACCESS TO BETTER AND MORE COURSE MATERIAL
Reading is something that a lawyer does not by choice but again, by necessity. The more a lawyer reads and expands his knowledge and horizon, the better equipped he becomes in tackling legal issues and problems.
And as it goes, the amount of course material on the legal subject in English outnumbers the material in any other regional language to a great extent.
Not only Indian authors but also international authors… you would get almost infinite material on ANY subject you want to study on.
But that’s not the real issue here. As a judiciary aspirant, you would probably want to read more and more to clarify your legal understanding and also broaden your view of a particular topic.
Lack of access to better course material can cause you to lack behind in the competition. Some books that may help you prepare for the judiciary can be accessed here.
As it has also been rightly said by Mr Naik Krishnappa Bhimappa, chairman, Karnataka State Bar Council, “Law should be taught in English only as all the necessary materials are in English. Because of the language problem, so many advocates are incompetent and unable to conduct cases properly”.
Every judicial service aspirant has a backup plan which may extend from litigation, corporate, teaching or anything else.
A lot of aspirants practise or intern along with preparation to gain practical skills. Many aspirants also prepare for other government exams.
Demonstrating proficiency in the English language will not only benefit in judicial services but will also bring innumerable opportunities to you. Practising in the local language can not help you go very far in this field and will limit your clients to a great extent. Corporates and MNCs for instance, mostly tend to engage lawyers who speak and write fluently in English.
You might know the law, but not knowing English can cause hindrance in the path of not only a judicial service aspirant but also a law student or professional.
Most professionals working in urban areas agree English is a better medium than a regional language to study law in and it is also of importance to judges. The same has also been reiterated by the vice president of the Bar Council of West Bengal Siddhartha Mukherjee.
REGULATIONS AND POLICIES
The draft of the National Education Policy 2019 suggests that state law colleges should consider providing education in English as well as in the language of the specific state.
It states that a host of measures will be undertaken such as, inducting teachers who are well versed in the regional language as well as English, making textbooks and study materials available in both languages, and allowing examinees to write their examination in either medium.
The policy also suggests alleviating delay in legal outcomes consequent to need for translation. Various colleges across the nation have imparted legal education in regional languages over many years now but due to lack of knowledge in English, students have not been able to move ahead of their careers.
The Bar Council of India under the Draft Rules of Legal Education, 2019 also requires English to be included as a compulsory paper in all courses in law, even though the course itself can be delivered, and students tested, in any medium. Please note that a judge is required to be a lawyer before he/she appears for the Bar examination.
Professionals have time and again agreed that the main problem is that students who come from regional language programmes tend to lose confidence before their English-speaking counterparts in the courts and the same applies for judges as well.
The Government might not have a problem with your being fluent in Hindi and struggling in English but your legal counterparts will want to take advantage of the same.
While English is just another language, or let’s say, a medium of communication, it becomes a lot more at times.
The truth is, be it judiciary aspirants or any other career for that matter, the ones who hail from vernacular language colleges face a lot of challenges when it comes to drafting documents in legal English.
But more so as a judge where you have to render your judgment in English and where every word of it would matter a lot. You would also have to be able to understand and draft legal documents to such an extent that you could find faults in them when there are any.
Any person weak in the subject of English will face a lot of issues while drafting formal legal documents. An aspirant is required to practise judgement writing frequently as it forms an important part of the examination. (Want to learn how to write perfect judgments? Click here to read on.)
Imagine you meant to write something, but that slight mistake in grammar changed the meaning of your sentence altogether. Grammatical errors can have a massive and negative impact on your marks or chance of cracking the exam itself.
Basic rules of grammar should be kept in mind while drafting.
The English language should be inculcated in a law student at the inception of their career, especially when they are in law school itself, as it is a non-negotiable requirement for any legal professional either in the judicial services or otherwise.
Even if you do become a judge, lack of proficiency in the English language can even cost you your career.
A similar case was witnessed when the Bombay High Court sacked a judge for lack of grammatical skills as can be seen here.
INTERNSHIPS, INTERVIEW, AND PRACTICAL TRAINING
Internship stands an integral part of a law student’s life.
Now if you are a student and have any doubt about entering into the judicial services because you do not know the job involved, you would want to examine it by interning under a judge.
It is privileged to intern under esteemed judges but your application will be judged by your knowledge and skills under which oral and written will be of utmost importance.
The last stage of the judicial services examination includes an interview in which a candidate’s acumen, personality, intelligence, general outlook and speaking skills are judged.
The interview is conducted in English, hence, fluency in the English language can act as a major asset for a candidate and increase his/her chances for selection.
Access to training, online courses, seminars or webinars are all conducted in the English language.
To end with, the English language is a necessity all over the world. But especially if you want to be a judge in India.
It’s a mode of survival and not a luxury to possess.
English has the power to make or break your career, so it must not be taken lightly.
If you need help with your Legal English Communication, we have an exclusive legal English course for you.
English is not enough!
If English was everything you needed to pass the judiciary exam, the ones with British Council certifications would be the one to become judges and magistrates.
But it is not so.
It takes a lot more than that.
The judiciary exam, being one of the toughest competitive exams in India, needs a battle-tested, full-on exam preparation strategy to help you crack the exam and become a judge one day.
What questions should you prepare for the most?
How should you practise writing your mock test papers?
What’s the best approach to prepare for the judgment writing paper?
Lots of questions need to be answered.
The best way to get the answers to these questions is by giving our career counsellors a call on 011 4084 5203 and having a free career consultation with our experts.
(Alternatively, comment below to this article stating “I want to pass the judiciary exam.” We will get back to you urgently.)
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Looking forward to hearing from you.
To your success.
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