Special Correspondent

Says State should provide the necessary infrastructure

Thanjavur: There cannot be any objection to making Tamil the official language of the Madras High Court, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Justice A.P. Shah said on Saturday.

Speaking after inaugurating the Legal Aid Centre (Satta Udhavi Maiyyam) building at the district court complex here, he said it was the duty of the State Government to provide the necessary infrastructure for introducing Tamil as the official language of the High Court. "But there should not be any haste in doing so. The court is computerised now and Tamil software is necessary in future. Three lakh cases are pending in the High Court and it should not be burdened further. Introduction of Tamil should not be viewed as an emotional or political decision. Necessary preparations should be made before introducing Tamil as the official language," he said.

"Tamil is a very rich language. I have read the translations of Thirukkural. Thiruvalluvar can be compared to Valmiki," he said.

He said Indians tended to litigate than opt for conciliation. Pending cases in the High court and other courts indicated this. Litigation was far less thirty years back. It had increased manifold. Hence, alternate disputes redressal mechanisms were necessary. Mediation could do wonders, Mr. Justice Shah said. He cited the example of the Standard Motor company case that had dragged on for two decades and was finally settled through mediation. He said Lok Adalats would be made a continuous process in the Chennai High Court for dealing with motor accident cases.

Nearly 20,000 cases were pending. It would be extended to other centres soon.

The Legal Aid centre building, built at a cost of Rs.21 lakh, has been funded by Union Minister of State for Finance S.S. Palani Manickam and Union Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation G.K. Vasan from their MP's local area development fund, and S.N.M. Ubayathullah, State Commercial Taxes Minister, from his MLA's local area development fund.

Computer centre

The Chief Justice also inaugurated a computer centre in the court complex.

I. Periyasamy, State minister for Revenue and Law said an integrated district court complex building would come up soon at Peramblaur at a cost of Rs.9 crore.

S.N.M. Ubyathullah, State Commercial Taxes Minister; Justice K.N. Basha and Justice S. Rajeswaran, High court Judges; C. Vijayaraj Kumar, Thanjavur district Collector; Anand Kumar Somani, Superintendent of Police, Thanjavur district; Swati Shah, wife of the Chief Justice; Chandramohan, Chairman, Bar council of Tamil Nadu and Pondichery and T.V. Ramanujan, President, Madras Bar Association also spoke.

Special Correspondent from Chennai writes:

The Madras High Court has cautioned the Tamil Nadu Government that any attempt to issue a notification for introducing Tamil as court language without creating the necessary infrastructure will not be fruitful.

"Augment staff strength"

A press note issued by the Registrar-General, clarifying the court's stand, said the Government had been informed about the need to improve the infrastructure, augment staff strength, provide more space and translate Central and State enactments. Chief Justice A.P. Shah had written to the Government, stating: "The matter was discussed in the Full Court meeting, and the honourable judges are, in principle, in favour of the proposal for the use of Tamil as court language, but they are of the unanimous opinion that without creating the necessary infrastructure any attempt to issue a notification under Article 348(2) of the Constitution of India may not be fruitful and the desired result will not be achieved."

Unless and until a comprehensive project for translation of all the enactments is undertaken and completed, the switchover to Tamil will not be fully effective for the purpose of delivering justice, it said. It also urged the Government to provide facilities for setting up libraries and purchasing Tamil law journals and texts. Further, glossary of legal terminology, including legal maxims, too must be made available.

"For the implementation of Tamil as official language in courts, trained translators are required to translate the records from English to Tamil ... A faulty, defective or even imperfect translation may have the adverse effect of putting the life and liberty of an individual in jeopardy. Therefore, the recruitment of excellent translators is a must in the interest of justice, as much as it is in the interest of the people," the letter read.

Reiterating the need for stenographers trained both in Tamil and English, it said: "There are very few legal texts of superior quality in Tamil. Classical constitutional treatises like Basu or Seervai have no matching texts in Tamil as yet."

Referring to the imminent computerisation of the entire judiciary in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Justice Shah said, "In order to facilitate speedy disposal of cases and increased access to justice, matching Tamil software and hardware have to be provided."

The letter further said: "Implementation of the policy decision introducing Tamil as official language in courts in haste, without taking a long-term perspective and looking at it from all angles, will create practical difficulties and, consequently, result in injustice to the people ... In the implementation of the policy, difficulties will arise, which have to be taken note of, since they will have an impact on public interest."