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Mixed response to HC order on minimal use of Urdu in FIRs

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While some feel that it is one more blow to our shared past, others welcomed the move

The recent directive of the Delhi High Court to minimise the use of Urdu and Persian words in First Information Reports (FIRs) has got a mixed response from language and legal experts. Some say it is one more blow to our shared past, while others welcomed the move.

Literary historian Khalid Alvi said the Delhi High Court has given farewell to Urdu when the very “order has an Urdu word.” “It uses dasti which means to be given by hand,” Dr. Alvi pointed out.

Latin, French words

The judiciary, he said, “uses a number of Latin and French words such as caveat, nexus, bona fide, inter-alia and ex-parte but it has a problem with the use of Urdu and Persian words. I don’t think there is a substitute to a word like vaqalatnama [the document through which a party authorises the lawyers to represent it].”

He said the court had said the officials should apply their mind while using Urdu and Persian words, which means you can’t fault the language. “Having said that, words such as tehreer and mulzim are part of common parlance and the officials who use them on a daily basis know their meaning well. Are they going to ask forensic experts too to submit their reports in simple language because they also affect the concerned parties,” he asked, adding court employees such as ahlmad and peshkar also have Persian/Urdu origins.

383 words

The order enumerated 383 Urdu words/ phrases being used in FIR. Some of them such as mazkuriya (injured female) and hasb zabta (as per Cr.PC) make you scratch your head, others such as chust (prompt) and zakhm (injury) seem part of the common man’s vocabulary.

Md. Zafar Nomani, professor of law at Aligarh Muslim University said he could not “ascertain the logic” behind these directions. He said he does agree that sometimes it becomes “cumbersome” to read such text in an FIR but still I didn’t get the “objective” behind the exercise as there can’t be a “blanket rule” on the use of a language. He said the translated words don’t necessarily convey the meaning with the same force and intent. “In the past we have seen judges like Justice [Markandey] Katju using Urdu poetry in his judgments. The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language is holding a national seminar on the use of Urdu in civil and criminal law in January where this issue would come up,” said Prof. Nomani, one of the panellists.

For common man

Satiram Singh, head of the Hindi department in SSV College, Hapur, said the law was for the common man and if his version was not recorded in his language then it would be of no use. “If we raise objections to this order how can we criticise the use of Sanskritised Hindi in official work. It is not about Hindi and Urdu, it is about reaching out to the last man in the row in his language,” said Dr. Singh.

“As a teacher, I do feel hurt when a ‘word’ gets lost because the public ceases to use it and I agree there are no exact translations, but then this is how a language evolves or dilutes. It is like a flowing river.” he added.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 5:26:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mixed-response-to-hc-order-on-minimal-use-of-urdu-in-firs/article30201440.ece

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