Implementation of Orissa Official Language Act // Essential Legislation in Assembly’s Coming Session

Bhubaneswar Bureau

The essential amendment to Orissa Official Language Act, 1954 and creation of corresponding Rule for strict implementation of the Act, submitted by Sri Subhas Chandra Pattanayak, who represents Oriya Bhasa Sangram Samiti in the Ministerial Committee specifically created for governance of Orissa in Oriya language, would perhaps be placed before Orissa Legislative Assembly in its coming session. Hopefully the Assembly would adopt this essential amendment of the Act as suggested by Sri Pattanayak and then the suggested Rules.

When the Act was created on 14th October 1954, it escaped legislative wisdom to equip it with provisions to create necessary Rules to implement the Act. It only said, “without prejudice to the provisions of Article 346 and 347 of the Constitution, Oriya shall be the language to be used for all or any of the official purposes of the State of Orissa” [Section 2 (1)] and the Act “shall come into force at once” [Section 1 (3)]. Yet, at the same time, it was restricted under Sub-Section (2) of Section 2, where it was laid down that its entire promulgation would depend on government authorization, as we see in its mischief: “The State Government may, by Notification, direct that in any specific area and with effect from any specified date Oriya shall be used in respect of such official purposes as specified in the Notification.

When thus executive orders were granted predominance upon the Act, that had, under Section 1 (2), mandated that the Act shall cover whole of Orissa and under Section 1 (3) had given the Act “Immediate effect”, in 1963 Mr. Biju Patnaik, who was entirely averse to use of Oriya as official language, sabotaged the Section 2 of the Act, that had made it a must for use of Oriya as the official language in “all and any of the official purposes of Orissa” by inserting Section 3-A in the Act in 1963.

The original Act under Section 3 had stipulated that,

All Bills to be introduced or amendment thereto to be moved in Orissa Legislative Assembly;
All Acts passed by the State legislature;
All ordinances promulgated by the Governor under Article 213 of the Constitution; and
All orders, Rules, Regulations and Bye-Laws issued by the State Government under the Constitution or under any Law made by Parliament or the Legislature of the State;
shall be in Oriya.

But Biju Patnaik very shrewdly inserted Section 3-A, which empowered the government to use English “in addition to Oriya for the transaction of business in Legislature of the State of Orissa”. It received assent of the Governor on 19th October 1963.

After this amendment, English language has completely engulfed Orissa. Lest the people locate the saboteur, in the present regime, the officially approved law books as well as the dedicated website on administration in Oriya are showing this amendment to have been made by J.B.Patnaik in 1985.

As far as J.B.Patnaik was concerned, he took genuine interest in implementing the Orissa Official Language Act, took steps to procure Oriya Typewriters, to produce Engish to Oriya and Oriya to English administrative lexicon and to provide for development of and training in Oriya shorthand to equip the administration for governance of Orissa in Oriya. He also required his cabinet colleagues to ensure that files are prepared in Oriya language without any deviation.

But Oriya could not be used for “all and and any official purpose” as laid down in the Act. Chief Ministers like Biju Patnaik and Naveen Patnaik grossly contravened the Act everyday, as they never used Oriya language in perusing the files and issuing their orders. With these CMs contravening the Act everyday in all their official activities, Orissa’s administration got engulfed entirely by English language and non-Oriya interest fetched official support as Oriya people perished. Moved to the core by seeing their fellow beings in such quagmire, sometimes, some patriotic Oriya-by-birth officers issued circulars to their respective subordinates for transaction of administrative businesses in Oriya. But no subordinate officer cared.

This is because, there is no provision for any action against any functionary in case of contravention of the Act by him or her. There is no Rules to drive the Act ahead. And the Act has no provision under which the Rules may be created.

On analyzing this syndrome, member of the Committee Sri Subhas Chandra Pattanayak has submitted the draft amendment to the Act and the draft of corresponding Rules with provision for penal action against the contraveners of the Act.

Chairman of the Committee Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told the Committee that the Law department is presently vetting the same and steps are being taken to place the vetted draft before the Assembly in the coming budget session for legislation.

This is a very positive step the government is taking and the legislation would certainly change the scenario and there shall emerge the most congenial environment for governance of Orissa in Oriya, it is hoped.

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