When Law goes multilingual...For the first time, the Indian students to study law in their regional languages!

(This article is authored by Alar) 

The Indian law ecosystem is getting closer to witnessing a major overhaul in nurturing the law and its studies among the students as for the first time, the students will be studying the law courses in their regional languages if the drive for overhaul goes as per the plan. Had it become reality, the law colleges would have courses in the regional languages like the engineering colleges. 

With the view to introducing the law courses in regional languages, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has started a dialogue with the Bar Council of India (BCI), while the Bar Council has also formed a committee for developing regional languages in legal education. The committee has been headed by former Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde and comprises twelve members and it has been tasked to table the recommendations on how the courses in the regional languages can be rolled out. 

The committee has constituted on Monday- June 13 and it plans to publish textbooks for law students in 12 Indian regional languages by the 2023-24 academic session. Chamu Krishna Shastry, the Chairman of Bharatiya Bhasha Samiti, under the Union Ministry of Education, said that the plan to introduce the law courses in the regional languages is a historic step that will go a long way in shaping a legal education system embedded in India as envisaged in the National Education Policy. 

Shastry further said, "The need is to produce quality legal textbooks. There are some legal books in Hindi and Tamil, but not in other local languages." "There will be pressure on courts to translate judgments into local languages. About 90% of people are denied justice because they don't understand laws or comprehend judgments that impact their lives", Shastry added. 

The reports say that the Union government was considering extending the option to introduce courses in regional languages to law colleges, a year after the same was implemented for engineering colleges. The regional languages drive is part of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The decision to form a committee was taken during a meeting between the UGC, BCI, and the members of the Union Education Ministry. 

In a statement on Monday, the BCI has announced that the committee will be headed by former Chief Justice SA Bobde and the committee has roped in Working President of BCI Manan Kumar Mishra, UGC Chairperson Jagadesh Kumar, and Chamu Krishna Shastry. It will also consist of Narasimha Reddy, the former Chief Justice of Patna High Court, Prof Ishwara Bhat, former Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Juridical Sciences, Prof Dr S Vaidhyasubramaniam, Vice-Chancellor, Sastra University in Tamil Nadu, Prof Satya Narain Sharma, Dean - Law Department and former Principal Madhav College, Dr Gopakumar Sharma - Joint Secretary of UGC, and Ashok Mehta, Anjali Vijay Thakur, and Anjul Dwivedi - senior lawyers. 

In a statement, BCI President Manan Kumar Mishra said, "The time has now come for taking basic legal education to the doors of people, which is to be done by BCI in cooperation with schools, UGC, and academicians. As per the NEP, the state institutions offering law education must consider offering bilingual education for future lawyers and judges- in English and in the language of the state in which the law programme is situated. This is to alleviate delays in legal outcomes consequent to the need for translation. Bar Council of India has already decided to take all necessary steps for achieving this goal."

He further stated, "Bar Council of India shall earmark at least three Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in every state to start teaching in local languages. Such Institution shall be encouraged in every respect." UGC Chairman Jagadesh Kumar said, "This committee will identify the books that have to be translated first. We are planning to translate them into twelve Indian languages, to begin with. It will help lawyers to prepare documents in regional languages and also interact with their clients in their mother tongues. In local courts also, arguments take place only in the local languages." It must be noted that while the local regional courts are using local languages, English has been the mode of communication in the High Courts and the Supreme Court.