Amended Language law pregnant with mischief: Bhasha Andolan gives the Govt two months

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The windup of the 12th session of the 15th Legislative Assembly of Orissa scheduled to continue till 05.05.2018 was advanced to 01.05 2018.

Bowing to the demand of Bhasha Andolan, the State Government placed a Bill to amend Odisha Official Language Act, 1954, providing for punishment against nonuse of Oriya language in matters of administration. The Assembly unanimously adopted the Bill on this last day of the session.

But the Bill is pregnant with mischief, which, if not corrected, may lead to punishing the people for the guilt of the public servants.

With strong resentment against this mischief, however, as its basic demand for equipping the Act with the essential ingredient of punishment for contraveners has been honored in the amendment, the Bhasha Andolan has declared to postpone its Black Flag campaign for two months, without braking the movement, so that, the Government may remove the mischief to make Oriya the inviolable medium of administration.

Victory of Bhasha Andolan

Bhasha Andolan has every reason to rejoice over its achievement that sic passim even the debate in Assembly on the Bill.

While participating in the debate, members of the Assembly, who always speak in English to show off their elitism, spoke in Oriya.

A habitual English user Capt. Dibya Singh Mishra, no sooner than beginning in English, switched over to Oriya, which, he fluently and flawlessly spoke! He admitted that 93% of Orissa’s population use their mother tongue Oriya in all their expressions and works, whereas only 7% use Oriya mixed with or alternatively in English.

As a documentation of this historic moment I present the entire debate here.

Now the question is: why the Bhasha Andolan is not completely satisfied with this amendment?

Why the movement not wound up>

This is because,the amended legislation has a design to punish the people of Orissa for contravention of the language law instead of punishing the contraveners. It says:

“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.

Three defects are distinctly discernible in the syntax of this single-sentence insertion in the Act:

1. The words “extensive use of the official language” mean that, there shall be no total use of official language;

2. The words “Official language” do not mean Oriya Language alone, as the 1963 amendment by Biju Patnaik has also made English an official language “in addition to Oriya”. This means, the officials can use English language extensively and get rewarded for the same; and

3. The words “officials or Departments” mean either the officials or the department, which make it unambiguously clear that for nonuse of Oriya language in rendering service, either an official may be punished OR the Department to which he/she belongs may be punished.This inherent defect can easily help the erring officials escape punishment.

These defects were never seen and discussed by any member who participated in the debate. They even did not look at the ‘Statement of Objects and Reason’, which is the basis of the legislation. Had they really addressed themselves to the legislation, they should have refused their support to the Bill as a fraud being played by the Chief Minister on the Council of Ministers as well as the people.The following two reasons should have guided them:

1. The Chief Minister has played fraud on the Cabinet by obliterating its decision on Language in its 52nd meeting on 14.03.2018 by illegally reviving the notorious decision of the 51st meeting;
2. In the Bill, by providing for punishment to “Officials OR Departments” a design is laid to punish the people for the guilt of public servants.

Let me elaborate.

Firstly, the 52nd meeting of the Cabinet, which the CM has clandestinely killed, had said:

“Though the Act is very old 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 extraordinary 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 notification under the Act.”

Thus, as per its confession, Lack of punishment being the ‘Reason’ of continuous contravention of the Act, the said Cabinet had formulated and laid down the ‘Object’ of the proposed amendment directing the Government to bring the amendment “immediately providing penalties for erring Officers and employees.”

Official ‘Press Note’ released on this resolution says:

“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.”

This was how the 52nd Cabinet meeting dated 14.3.2018 had entirely accepted the draft I had given to the Ministerial Committee on 03.09.2015 and to the Chief Minister on 19.05.2017 and laid down what should be the ‘Objects and Reasons’ and the language of the amendment to be “immediately” brought in.

Secondly, while putting this most relevant and vital decision of the 52nd Cabinet meeting to oblivion, the notorious decision of the 51st Cabinet meeting, which was superseded in the 52nd meeting of the Cabinet has been used in the syntax as well as the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” of the Amendment.

Failure of MLAs

Had any of the MLAs that participated in the debate on the Bill wanted to know why was this mischief played and had the Parliamentary Affairs minister, who introduced the Bill and answered the debate on behalf of the Chief Minister, allowed himself to follow the principles of probity, this bad Bill could never have been passed on the basis of the notorious decision of the 51st meeting and notoriety to punish the people for fault of public servants could never have earned legal status. Erring officials could not have got the scope to escape under the “three defects” enumerated supra; and punishing the people under the scheme of punishing the Departments – as the word ‘OR’ facilitates – could not have become a possibility. The MLAs who supported the Bill have clearly failed to visualize this.

Reply fixed; what a farce!

It was a suffocating shock to see that the said Minister read out his answer from a written paper he had brought with him. This shows that he had not at all applied his mind to the debate. He acted just like a fantoccini puppet reading out the words coined in advance by the non-Oriya master(s) of the Chief Minister operating from the shadow.

The Chief Minister does not know Oriya language and reads, whenever required, from desktop displays or from pre-typed sheets of paper without knowing what he reads.

So the reply to the debate read out by the minister mustn’t have been prepared by the CM.

Who then prepared the written reply the minister read out, as if it was his master’s voice? Should the Assembly allow itself to appear like a sanctuary of such legislators or remain the revered rampart of our democracy? If the later, it must have to investigate through a House Committee on at least two questions:

1. Who prepared the written reply of the Minister before the debate, and why? and,

2. Who killed the decision of the 52nd meeting of the Cabinet dated 14.03.2018 and drafted the notorious amendment Bill along with the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ on the basis of the 51st meeting held on 26.12.2017 and under whose orders?

The Legislative Assembly ought not dance to the tune of anti-Oriyas playing thus from the shadow against the people of Orissa.

Bad law despite breath of agreement
with Bhasha Andolan

It is a bad law, despite having been equipped with ingredient of punishment as demanded by the Bhasha Andolan. It has made a farce of legislation that needs be suspended or amended forthwith before being sent to the Governor for his assent.

Call to Governor

If the Bill, as adopted mindlessly by the Assembly on 01.05.2018 is submitted to the Governor for his assent, it would be better for him to return the same for reasons elaborated above, specifically as the Chief Minister has played a fraud on the Cabinet by killing its decision dated 14.03.2018.

The greater question, which the Governor should seek clarification on, is: Can the decision of the 52nd meeting of the Cabinet dated 14.03.2018 be killed behind the back of the same Cabinet by the Chief Minister in order to revive and use the already superseded decision of the Cabinet on the same subject in the preceding meeting dated 26.12.2017?

This is a very pertinent point of law the Governor should take into consideration before giving assent to this bad Bill to make that a law.

Needed is a flawless Law

Bhasha Andolan wants a full-fledged and flawless Orissa Official Language Act with Rules, the draft of which has been given to the Government through the Ministerial Committee on 03.09.2015, so as to ensure that sovereignty of Oriya Language in management of Orissa can never be put to jeopardy at any point of time in future.

With democratic magnanimity in heart, it has given two months to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to remove the wrong he has done to the people of Orissa in the matter of their mother tongue.

Black Flag campaign has been postponed for two months, but the movement continues and the members of Bhasha Andolan are everyday holding their meeting in Bhasha Tirtha in front of the revered statue of Kula Gourab Madhusudan to whom resurrected Orissa owes her origin.

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