Founder of Bhasha Andolan, Subhas Chandra Pattanayak, who, in the aftermath of the famous ‘Fast onto Death for Language’ by poet Gajanan Mishra in July 2015, was made a Member of the Ministerial Committee to advise the Government on working of Orissa Official Language Act, has requested the State Governor to refuse approval to the amendment of Orissa Official Language Rules, 2016 on the ground that, the same is notoriously designed to add legislative correctness to the incorrect Section 4A inserted in the Act in 2018, in protest against which, the Black Flag March of the Andolan is going on.
We produce below the mail of Sri Pattanayak to the Governor.
The Governor of Odisha,
Subject: Request for refusing approval to proposed Odisha Official Language (Amendment) Rules, 2019 as proposed by the cabinet in its meeting on 26.02.2019 and for termination of all legislative activities illegally committed in the matter of the said Act in 2018.
The Government of Odisha had created a Ministerial Committee on working of Odisha Official Language Act, 1954 under an Official instrument vide GAD-COOD-CORDS-0013-2015-18715/GA, Dtd. 31.07.2015 to which I was nominated as a Member. I studied the issue in-depth and found that, no functionary was honoring the Act, as there was no provision therein for punishment against its contravention. I further found that, there were no Rules to administer the punishment, if any would be provided against its violation, as the Act had not given any power to the Government to create the Rules. So, I advised the Government on 03.09.2015 to amend the Act in order to equip it with penalty clause and power to create the Rule. Along with my advice, I submitted the drafts of my proposed legislation, which the Government published in the official website (bhasha.odisha.gov.in) specifically created for the purpose. The Chief Minister informed the Assembly on 14.12.2015 that the Act would be soon amended to ensure administration of Odisha in Odia. But within a couple of days, he drifted away and the Ministerial Committee was rendered inoperative. I started a movement styled Bhasha Andolan based on my method of ‘Silent Black Flag March’ for public awareness, which espoused my proposals.
In the environment created by this movement, the Government amended the Act by way of an Ordinance on 21.05.2016 and thereby acquired the power to frame Rules for administration of the Act.
It created a set of Rules styled Odisha Official Language Rules, 2016 vide Notification No.17601-GAD-COOD-CORDS-0090/2016/Gen., Dtd. 12.08.2016 which the Cabinet in its meeting on 26.02.2019 has resolved to amend. The proposed Odisha Official Language (Amendment) Rules, 2019, created by this resolution, has been sent to you for your kind approval.
The official press note on this cabinet resolution is reproduced below:
“The Odisha Official language (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 has been passed in the thirteenth session of the fifteenth assembly and enacted in the Sixty-ninth Year of Republic of India. As per the new Section 4A of the said act, the State Government may prescribe suitable measures in the rules to award incentives to officials or Departments for extensive use of Odia as the official language and also to punish the erring officials or Departments or both.
The cabinet has approved the proposal to amend the Odisha Official Language Rules, 2016 accordingly and provision has been made to reward the officials as well as Department for extensive use of Odia as the official language for all or any of the official purposes in the State of Odisha. In case of any substantial and persistent dereliction in the use of Odia as the official language for official purposes, action as deemed fit under Odisha Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules, 1962 will be initiated against the erring officials. In case of officials of All India Services and Central Services working under the State Government, action will be initiated under the provisions of relevant disciplinary Rules following the laid down procedure. For effective implementation of the use of Odia as the official language, appropriate training will be imparted to the employees for their capacity-building.”
From the above, it is clear that the Government is using the occasion of amendment of the Rules to defeat the very purpose of the Odisha Official Language Act, by basing the amendment on the newly created Section 4A of the said Act.
The mischief of Section 4A:
Section 4A has been mischievously linked with a superseded Cabinet Decision dated 26.12.2017. This particular resolution adopted in Odia was designed to render the original Act inconsequential. It read, the Official Language Act would be implemented as per norm and extent fixed by bureaucracy and members of bureaucracy or the departments would be rewarded for extensive use of Odia language in government work and conversely be punished for not using Odia language extensively. These provisions sharply reduced the scope and purpose of the original Act.
The original Act:
The Odisha Official Language Act was created in 1954 by the first assembly of Odisha, elected on the basis of universal franchise. The province of Odisha was created for the sole purpose of administration in Odia only. So to fulfill the purpose, the Act stipulated that, it would be in force in the whole of the state of Odisha and for all and any official purpose in Odisha, Odia shall be the language. Thus, the cabinet proposal dated 26.12.2017, on which Section 4A was created, was to cause a sharp reduction of the scope and purpose of the Act, as it stipulated that the implementation of the Act would be limited to the norm and limit fixed by bureaucracy.
In my letter dated 24.05.2018, acknowledged by your good office, I had urged upon the Honorable Governor to please refuse assent to this amendment on the grounds shown above and elaborated in the same communication. Unfortunately, that was not heeded to under mysterious circumstances.
I had urged upon the Chief Minister to bring in a fresh amendment to do away with the mischief of Section 4A. But, that was also not heeded to and the illegality of Section 4A was re-enforced by a second amendment on 19.09.2018, which again was a creation of tampering of the cabinet resolution dated 26.12.2017. It is astonishing that whosoever drafted the second amendment could dare to tamper with the cabinet resolution of 26.12.2017. I elaborated the illegalities in my mail to the Honorable Governor dated 25.09.2018. But, I was kept in dark about what action the Honorable Governor took on that communication.
It is worth noting that in order to bring out this illegal amendment, the state government resorted to a shameful scam on cabinet Resolution dated 14.03.2018. On this day, the State Cabinet had resolved to do away with the mischief of the Resolution Dtd. 26.12.2017. I quote relevant portions of the press-note issued by the Government on the said Cabinet decision, intriguingly marked “SECRET” :
1. As per the review made 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 transaction have come to the 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., dated 29.03.1985 published in the extraordinary issue of the Odisha Gazette no. 562 dated 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 the sub-section (2) of section 2, so that they will implement the provisions of the notification in its letter and spirit.
Sadly and surprisingly, this specific Resolution was buried clandestinely by the Chief Minister (Member-in-charge) and the Section 4A was created on the basis of the notorious Resolution dated 26.12.2017, which was de facto superseded by resolution dated 14.03.2018.
Despite all these irregularities and illegalities, the amendment was not turned down by the Hon’ble Governor. And yet, the proposed amendment of the Rules placed before Your Honour for approval is linked to the same Section 4A which is an illegal Section, for repeal of which the silent Black Flag Movement is going on.
Under the circumstances elaborated above, I request you to please refuse your approval to the same and to please review the two consecutive amendments done in the Odisha Official Language Act in 2018 and to ask the government to repeal the same/ replace the same with fresh amendment in the Act for unfailing implementation of the original Act created in 1954.
And, for this act of kindness on behalf of the people of Odisha, I solemnly pray.
Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Founder of Bhasha Andolan, Odisha
Member, Ministerial Committee on working of Odisha Official Language Act (Presently Defunct)