Private Individuals Cannot Be Compelled to Use Gujarati Language, Gujarat High Court Asserts


LI Network

Published on: 02 September 2023 at 13:03 IST

Private individuals cannot be compelled by court orders to use the Gujarati language, the Gujarat High Court stated during a hearing on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the strict enforcement of a circular mandating the use of Gujarati on display boards, signs, and official communications in public spaces.

The division bench consisting of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee was addressing a plea to implement a circular issued by the State government on February 18, 2022.

The circular required the use of Gujarati in all official communications at public places, including private spaces intended for public use, such as malls, cinemas, and restaurants.

The bench acknowledged that Gujarati was largely used in most public spaces, but the petitioner pointed out that private spaces like malls were not fully adhering to the circular.

In response, Chief Justice Agarwal emphasized that the court cannot mandate private individuals to use Gujarati. Instead, she suggested sensitizing private individuals through campaigns and public awareness initiatives, promoting not only the use of the language but also highlighting the benefits of using the local language, “Matrubhasha.”

Chief Justice Agarwal remarked, “You start a ‘muhim’ (campaign) sort of a thing to sensitise people. You can start with public meetings, and public slogans, there are many modes of sensitising people. You can sensitise them not only mandating them to use the language but also about the benefits of using ‘Matrubhasha.’ We cannot issue any mandamus.”

Chief Justice Agarwal also shared her personal observations of signages and display boards predominantly in Gujarati during her travels in Ahmedabad.

The bench ultimately disposed of the PIL with a directive to State authorities to ensure proper implementation of the circular.

In a related matter, a previous PIL petition seeking permission to use Gujarati as an additional language in State courts was dismissed by a bench led by Chief Justice Agarwal on August 22.

During an earlier hearing in November 2022, a High Court bench led by the then Chief Justice Aravind Kumar had noted that allowing Gujarati as a court language would have significant implications.

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