Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
It is sad that the Chief Minister of Orissa Sri Naveen Patnaik has perpetrated a fraud on the Cabinet in matter of amendment of the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954 (hereinafter called the Act).
The Amendment Bill , 2018 which he has introduced to the Assembly on April 27, 2018 through Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Arukh, is designed to punish the people of Orissa for violation thereof by any public servant.
Unthinkable, but true.
On May 19, 2017 I got this invitation from the Additional Secretary to the CM. I accepted the invitation and met him in his chamber along with Bhasha Andolan President Pradyumna Satapathy and Convener Pabitra Maharatha.
I told him that, unless the proposed draft (September 3, 2015) for amendment of the Act is adopted through a “fresh” amendment, governance of Orissa in Oriya would not be possible.
Had the amendment he caused to the Act in 2016 , firstly through an Ordinance on May 21, 2016 and finally through a Bill on September 28, 2016, been in consonance with my above proposal, it would have worked perfectly and foiling the very purpose of creation of Orissa by the public servants could have been stopped. In a written submission, I had given him a draft with which to replace or amend the deficient Section 4 inserted to the Act through the 2016 amendment. It read :
“The State Government may, in such manner and by such authority, as may be prescribed in the Rules under this Act, receive complaints from the general public of Odisha in the matter of contravention of the Act and over and above such complaints, without prejudice to their entitlement to prosecute, suo motto review and monitor whether the directions contained in the Notification under sub-section (2) of section 2 are contravened and subject the contravener to punishment stipulated in the Rules.”
The deficient provision in the amendment of 2016, which this submission wanted to replace is :
“Section 4. The State Government may, within such period, in such manner and by such authority, as may be prescribed in the Rules made under this Act, review and monitor whether the direction contained in the Notification issued under Sub-Section (2) of Section 2 has been effectively implemented.”
What was the original proposal? It was:
“ Section 4 (2). The State Government may make Rules for carrying out all or any of the purposes of this Act or for due enforcement of any or all provisions of this Act or for enlarging the scope or purpose of this Act and/or for providing punishment for the violation of any provision of this Act.”
It clearly shows that the ingredient for “punishment” to provide for which, along with a set of draft Rules, I had suggested the amendment on September 3, 2015 and to materialize which the Bhasha Andolan was holding its Black Flag campaign, was totally absent in the Ordinance adopted in toto in the Assembly, defeating our democratic trust in the CM that, as per his oral assurance, the lacuna would be done away with during the Assembly business.
The public servants were so adamant to defeat our endeavor that a non-Oriya bureaucrat G,V,V,Sharma, the then Special Secretary in GA department in charge of working of the Act, had opposed the proposed “punishment” in my draft Rules while sending the same to Secretary, Law for “vetting” and had thrown the file to gather dust somewhere in the Secretariat. At that time the CM had danced to his tune and had de facto caused death to the Ministerial Committee as a member of which I had advanced the proposal for this amendment.
Apprising him in details of the harm this mischief has done to Orissa, I had told him to take immediate steps to bring in further amendment to the congenitally deficient amendment of 2016 ; and to help him in this regard, I had handed him over the fresh draft as noted supra.
Cabinet Decision -1
As the CM continued to ignore our proposal dated May 19, 2017 willfully or under inability to acquire necessary courage to overcome the conspiracy of public servants like Sharma, the Council of Ministers, who all are Oriyas by birth, rose to the occasion and wanted to discuss the issue, which gave birth to what is called “Puri Cabinet on Language”. The anti-Oriya public servants tried to blur the vision of the cabinet by dazzling them with as many as 20 language-centric items. However, Resolution 3 is most germane to the demand of Bhasha Andolan for governance of Orissa in Oriya.
The Council of Ministers, for the first time, agreed in this Resolution with our demand to amend the Act for punishment to contraveners of the Act. But to dilute its sharpness, the public servants mingled it with components of reward to departments and persons working extensively in Oriya language, which conversely suggested that punishment for violation of the Act may be given not exactly to the erring employees, but to the departments. Punishing a department for illegal activities of employees is punishing the people while protecting the offender. Furthermore, it wanted to subject implementation of the Act to whims of employees who would decide where and to what extent and in what standard the Act shall act.
Bhasha Andolan rejected the mischief and refused to be hoodwinked. Black Flag campaign continued all over Orissa in strategic nerve centers.
Members of the Council of Ministers, all genuine and pure-blooded Oriyas, could understood the mischief exposed by Bhasha Andolan and, therefore, in its meeting on March 14, 2018, it de facto nullified the Puri mischief and laid down the “Objects and Reasons” of the proposed amendment. This cabinet decision is very important for governance of Orissa in Oriya. Posted in the official website capsuled in a Press Note, which was surprisingly marked “secret”, it appeared almost conducive to our demand. It read:
“1.As per the review made by the “Odia Language Committee”under different points of time u/s 4 of the Odisha Official Language Act, 1954 irregularities in using Odia in all official transactions have come to knowledge of the Government.
2. Though the Act is very old Act and is in force since 1954, the provisions of the notification issued under sub-section (2) of section 2 of the said Act vide notification No.7152-Gen, dtd.29.03.1985 published in the extras ordinary issue of the Odisha Gazette No.562 dtd.10.04.1985 directing all the employees and Officers of the State Government excepting those specified in the schedule thereto to use Odia Language in all official noting. The same is not properly implemented as there is no provision for imposing penalty against the Officers and employees who are violating the provisions of the notifications under the Act.
3. Government have decided to bring the amendment immediately providing penalties for such erring officers and employees who don’t obey the directions issued under sub-section (2) of section 2 , so that they will implement the provisions of the notification in its letter and spirit.
4. Similarly, the officers and employees who extensively use Odia Language in Official Noting, Government have decided to prescribe suitable measures in the relevant rules to award incentives.”
Thus, the Cabinet on March 14, 2018 removed the ambiguity seen in the Puri Resolution and finalized the “objects and reasons” of the amendment to be brought in “immediately” on the Act. I had objected to this on two immediately discernible grounds in my discussion with the Minister, Parliamentary Affairs Mr. Bikram Keshari Arukh the next day in his residence, viz: (1) Rule 4 was a piece of bureaucratic mischief inserted into the Act without approval of the Law Department and in sharp contravention of what the Law Department had corrected upon my proposed provision and had pencil-vetted.The amendment had attempted to legalize that illegal insertion and (2) Use of Odia only in official notings will not serve the purpose of the Act, as the people need their mother tongue to be their vehicle of all communication with and from the Government, the Government Offices, the commercial and industrial establishments and the Courts of Civil as well as Criminal jurisdiction. Mr. Arukh had agreed to take care of this in the Rules to be made.
Pending removal of these lacunae through the Rules to come, as promised by Mr. Arukh, we had welcomed this dicision of the Cabinet on two specific grounds: (1) It dropped the concept of punishing the departments,meaning the people, for offences of the employees advanced by the Resolution dated 26.12.2017; (2) It obliterated the mischief of subjecting the Act to mercy of mandarins by empowering the departments to fix the standard of Oriya to be used and the area where to be used and (3) It superseded the wrongful resolution of 26.12.2017.
In view of the March 14 resolution to amend the Act “immediately”, the Bill should have been introduced on the first occasion of official business on March 26, 2018. But delay for a month was deliberately done to find out how to kill the March 14 resolution.
Objects and Reasons arbitrarily changed
As a result, the Amendment Bill, introduced as noted supra, has most notoriously changed this Cabinet decision on “objects and reasons” in order to protect the erring employees and officers.
“Statement of Objects and Reasons” is the foundation on which an Act stands. It defines the Legislative Intention and makes the Act work accordingly.
In formulating the “Objects and Reasons” for amendment of the Act, the Cabinet of March 14, had clearly laid down that “officers and employees who don’t obey the directions” to “use Odia Language in all official nothings” shall be punished with penalties.
CM Naveen Patnaik and his coterie of mischievous civil servants have wiped out this noteworthy Resolution of the Cabinet, as the screen print of the official web-page so emphatically suggests.
After suppressing the Cabinet decision dated March 14, 2018, the CM has introduced Odisha Official Language (Amendment) Bill 2018 on April 27, 2018 that is well set to protect the officers and employees who will contravene the Act and refuse to render service in Oriya and disobey to use Oriya language in official noting. Naveen Patnaik aims at punishing the people of Orissa for the contravention of the Act by his employees!
Here is what the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the proposed amendment says:
“As per the decision of 51st meeting of Cabinet held on 26.12.2017 at 11.15 AM, the State Government is required to bring necessary provisions in the Odisha Official Language Act by way of amendment to award incentives to officials/Departments for extensive use of the official language and also to punish the erring officials/Departments.
Accordingly, necessary draft amendment Bill, 2018 has been prepared for amendment to the Odisha Official Language Act, 1954 to empower the State Government to prescribe in the Rules to award incentives to officials/Departments for extensive use of the official language and also to punish the erring officials/Departments.”
That, the expression “officials/Departments” in the ‘Statement of Objectives and Reasons’ means either the officials OR the Departments is clearly visible in the body of the amendment itself. It reads:
“4A. The State Government may prescribe suitable measures in the rules to award incentives to officials or Departments for extensive use of the official language and also to punish the erring officials or Departments.”
Hence, when any official doesn’t work in Oriya, he or she shall not be punished, because instead of him/her the concerned Department can be punished, which the word “OR” clearly connotes.
Naveen proposes to punish the people
This means the people of Orissa shall be punished for contravention of the Official Language Act by any public servant.
On the other hand, where did go the Cabinet decision, legitimately taken on 14.03.2018 that had dropped the words “and Department” from the scheme of punishment?
Bhasha Andolan strongly protests against this monstrous mischief.
What the MLAs should now do?
It demands that the introduced amendment be forthwith redrafted to punish the public servant who fails to serve the State in Oriya language and not and never the State. Hence, the MLAs should now insist that the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ behind the proposed amendment be redrafted in accordance with the “Objects and Reasons” formulated by the Cabinet on March 14, 2018.
Bhasha Andolan also demands that an inquiry be conducted into who obliterated the March 14 Cabinet Resolution and coined the ‘Objects and Reasons’ under question by arbitrarily reviving the superseded resolution of December 26, 2017. Our MLAs should support this genuine demand.
The people of Orissa have the birth right to have administrative services in Oriya language for which purpose alone their forefathers had fought against all odds and founded the State of Orissa.