Language Politics:Lawyers

The timing was perfect. The publicity was perfect. The recent protest by a section of lawyers demanding that Tamil be made the arguing language in  Chennai High Court coincided(?!) perfectly with the World Classical Tamil Conference going on in Coimbatore from 23-27 June 2010.

May be they forgot a few points, but the points were brought to our attention the next day in the papers. It is that most of the Judges in the Chennai High Court are not that much fluent in Tamil. It is a common procedure that all proceedings in the High Court go in English. The transcripts, papers, orders are in English in not only Chennai but in any High Court around the country. The plaintiff/defendant may, if so needed, get a copy of the proceedings in their native language. That too it is surprising that in a nation as developed as we are in this stage, our respectable lawyers do not know(or are they reluctant?) to argue in English. Even if they are allowed to argue in Tamil, some one has to translate to the Judge on what is being said.

This has happened in numerous instances. Ajmal Kasab requested that he be provided the details of the charges in his native language. So have been in numerous other cases. But the pitiable stage is that our lawyers are not fluent in English as they ought to be. Let alone in Hindi which a group of them still shun as being a foreign language(remember the language riots of the 1960s?).

A lawyer friend of mine pointed out this pitiable lack of knowledge in a recent conversation. He further said that most of the lawyers do not even know the section numbers properly, let alone give a definition for Haebeus Corpus.  And they are hailed as the champions of the poor!

Shame. Of course, the law student of today is looked upon as a rioter and trouble maker by one and all. That is the standard image they have earned as a result of their recent activities in Tamil Nadu. The times have gone by when a lawyer was looked upon as a learned man/counselor. Many of our valiant freedom fighters and civil servants were/are law graduates. Now he is but a mere functionary who helps in bringing the case to a quick end and pocket his fees. Morality down down.

Many experts and prominant persons have strongly stressed that it is essential to have at least a working knowledge of the English language. They aren’t asking us to avoid our local languages and dialects. But to have adequate knowledge. If this cannot be maintained, then we are far away from being a knowledge society, let alone dream of being a beacon light for other people. It is not enough if we go on providing BPO and other opportunities for our lads with foreign players. It is essential we are knowledgable inside also.


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