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Multilingualism In Parliament Of India: Need Of The Hour

As we all know India is a country where its people speak 22 major languages written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects. The official Indian languages are Hindi (with approximately 420 million speakers), and English, a widely spoken and officially recognized associate language. In addition, several states in India have their own official languages, spoken in their respective areas. This linguistic diversity along with other cultural diversities is one of the striking features of a great country like India.

Photo Credit : PTI


The following speech was delivered by Shri Venkaiah Naidu. Vice President and Chairman, Rajya Sabha from the Chair in the Upper House of Indian Parliament on 18-07-2018

Hon. Members, I have an announcement to make. You are all aware that under Article 120 of the Constitution, the Chairman is empowered to allow Members to speak in any of the 22 languages listed in Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. It has been my ardent desire, ever since my taking over as Chairman, Rajya Sabha, to facilitate Members speak in their mother tongue. Till now, we had arrangements for simultaneous interpretation in 17 languages only.

I am happy to inform you that the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has now made arrangements for simultaneous Interpretation of the proceedings of the House in the remaining five languages also, namely, Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani, Santhali and Sindhi. With this, Members can speak in all the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule. 

I encourage hon. Members to use this facility and speak in their own languages.आज से हम लोग aapni Banglay bolte paren; Tame Gujarati ma bolishako cho; Kannadhalli maatladavadhu; Malayathil samsarikkum; Marathi ta bol shakta; Odiya kotha kathalu epere, Punjabi vich bol sakde hai; Tamil la pesalam; Telugulo kooda maatladavachu; [Rajya Sabha Debates 18-07-2018]

The Parliament of India holds a mirror to this linguistic diversity of the country, because this is a unique forum where multilingualism is practiced most extensively and most effectively. When the Constitution of India was framed, this aspect of linguistic diversity was given due consideration and hence in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution 14 Indian languages were adopted at that point of time. 

The core functioning of Parliament of India or for that matter any legislative body is to debate and discuss various issues concerning the people of the country. Members of Indian Parliament are free and privileged to speak in any of the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India while participating in the debates and discussions of the Parliament. This freedom and privilege are guaranteed to the Members of Parliament by Article 120 of the Constitution of India.  

Constitutional Provision With Regard to Multilingualism in  Parliament of India

Constitution of India –

Article 120: Language to be used in Parliament –

(1)Notwithstanding anything in part XVII, but subject to the provisions of article 348, business in Parliament shall be transacted in Hindi or in English: Provided that the Chairman of the Council of States or Speaker of the House of the People, or person acting as such, as the case may be, may permit any member who cannot adequately express himself in Hindi or in English to address the House in his mother-tongue.

Simultaneous Interpretation Service of Parliament of India

Members of Indian Parliament speak different Indian languages while participating in the debates of the House on various issues. In a country like India with such huge linguistic diversity, it may not always be possible for all Members of Parliament to understand all the Indian languages in which hon’ble Members speak during the debates in both the Houses. In order to facilitate the smooth functioning of the Houses during the course of debates both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have a team of efficient language interpreters of many Indian Languages who simultaneously interpret each running speeches of the hon’ble Prime Minister, Ministers and the Members of Parliament into English and Hindi throughout the live proceedings of the House and of various Parliamentary Committee meetings.

Simultaneous Interpretation Service available in both the Houses of Parliament provides a live interpretation of the speeches made by Members and Ministers in any Indian languages into English and Hindi throughout the live proceedings of Parliament. This Service is presently manned by many trained Language Interpreters in Hindi, English and some other Indian languages.

The initial success in Hindi/English interpretation since the inception of the Service in 1964 led to the introduction of facilities for simultaneous interpretation into Hindi and English of some other Indian languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. At present, in addition to providing interpretation of the entire proceedings of the Parliament from Hindi into English and vice versa, arrangements exist for simultaneous interpretation into English as well as Hindi of the speeches made in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Manipuri, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu languages.

Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India—

The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India lists the names of the Indian languages adopted by it for the purpose of official languages of different regions of this vast country. 

 The Constitutional provisions relating to the Eighth Schedule occur in articles 344(1) and 351 of the Constitution. Article 344(1) provides for the constitution of a Commission by the President on expiration of five years from the commencement of the Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members representing the different languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to make recommendations to the President for the progressive use of Hindi for official purposes of the Union. 

 The following is the list of 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution 

(1) Assamese, (2) Bengali, (3) Gujarati, (4) Hindi, (5) Kannada, (6) Kashmiri, (7) Konkani, (8) Malayalam, (9) Manipuri, (10) Marathi, (11) Nepali, (12) Odia, (13) Punjabi, (14) Sanskrit, (15) Sindhi, (16) Tamil, (17) Telugu, (18) Urdu (19) Bodo, (20) Santhali, (21) Maithili and (22) Dogri. 

Of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Constitution. Sindhi language was added in 1967. Thereafter, three more languages viz., Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were included in 1992. Subsequently Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali were added in 2004.

Demand for inclusion of languages in the Eighth Schedule:

 At present, there are demands for inclusion of 38 more languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. These are:- (1) Angika, (2) Banjara, (3) Bazika, (4) Bhojpuri, (5) Bhoti, (6) Bhotia, (7) Bundelkhandi (8) Chhattisgarhi, (9) Dhatki, (10) English, (11) Garhwali (Pahari), (12) Gondi, (13) Gujjar/Gujjari (14) Ho, (15) Kachachhi, (16) Kamtapuri, (17) Karbi, (18) Khasi, (19) Kodava (Coorg), (20) Kok Barak, (21) Kumaoni (Pahari), (22) Kurak, (23) Kurmali, (24) Lepcha, (25) Limbu, (26) Mizo (Lushai), (27) Magahi, (28) Mundari, (29) Nagpuri, (30) Nicobarese, (31) Pahari (Himachali), (32) Pali, (33) Rajasthani, (34) Sambalpuri/Kosali, (35) Shaurseni (Prakrit), (36) Siraiki, (37) Tenyidi and (38) Tulu. 

Procedural requirement for inclusion of languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India:

 A Committee was set up in September, 2003 under the Chairmanship of Shri Sitakant Mohapatra to evolve a set of objective criteria for inclusion of more languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The Committee submitted its report in 2004. The report of the Committee is under consideration in consultation with the Minorities/Departments of the Central Government concerned. A decision on the pending demand for inclusion of languages in the Eighth Schedule will be taken up, inter alia, in the light of the recommendations of the Committee and Government’s decision thereon. However, no time frame can be fixed for consideration of the demands for inclusion of more languages in Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Constitutional Provision with Regard to Official Language of India:

Mahatma Gandhi, in his address to the Gujarat Education Conference at Bharuch in 1917 had stressed the need of a national language and expressed that Hindi is the only language which could be adopted as the national language because this is a language spoken by majority of the Indians.  The Constitution makers had deliberated the issue of Official Language in detail at the time of framing the Constitution and it was decided that Hindi in Devanagari script should be adopted as the official language of the Union. This is the basis of declaring Hindi as the Official Language of the Union under Article 343(1). At the time of framing and adoption of the Constitution, it was envisaged that English will continue to be used for executive, judicial and legal purposes for an initial period of 15 years i.e. till 1965. Besides, it was provided that the President may authorise the use of Hindi language for some specific purposes.

The period of 15 years was prescribed after detailed deliberation so that necessary arrangements could be made for a smooth language transition. The Constitution makers were conscious that language transition in all the fields may not be possible by 1965. They also had the vision to allow the use of English along with Hindi during the first 15 years.

Article 351 of the Constitution speaks of the development of Hindi as the Official Language of the Union. The framers of the Constitution had envisaged that Hindi with the help of other Indian Languages would evolve as a composite language, capable of being accepted by people living in non Hindi speaking regions.

In 1963, the Official Languages Act was enacted providing for the continued use of English even after 1965.  The Act also provided that the use of English for correspondence by the Central Government with the States may be discontinued only after the legislatures of all non-Hindi speaking States passed resolutions for such discontinuance and after considering these resolutions, the two Houses of Parliament passed similar resolutions.  The Act further provided that in the interregnum, for certain specified purposes Hindi alone may be used and for some other purposes both English and Hindi may be used.  The Official Language Rules were framed in 1976.

The Secretariat of the Committee is located at 11, Teen Murti Marg, New Delhi

Part XVII of the Constitution of India lays a firm foundations for the management and development of various languages in India.  The heading of this part is 'Official Language'.  It is the fountainhead of the linguistic system prevailing in the country as a whole.  It deals with the whole gamut of Official Language and the Regional Languages or other Modern Indian languages.  

This part contains 4 chapters covering a total of 9 articles (article 343 to article 351) of the Constitution.  

A gist of these four chapters is being given below:-

Article 343(1)        Hindi in Devnagiri Script will be the official language of India.  The form of numerals to be used for official purposes will be the international form of Indian numeral (i.e.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 0).

Article 343(2)        English to continue in use for all official proposes for the first 15 years of commencement of Indian Constitution. 

                              Proviso - President may authorize during this period of 15 years, use of Hindi Language and Devnagri numerals in addition to English and international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union. 

Article 343 (3)       Parliament by law may provide for use of English language and Devnagri form of numerals for such purposes as may be specified in the law, after an aforesaid period of 15 years. 

Article 344 (1)       Constitution of a Commission at the expiration of 5 & 10 years. 

Article 344 (2)       Terms of reference for the Commission. 

Article 344 (3)       Due regard to industrial, cultural and scientific advancement of India and just claims and interests of persons belonging to the non-Hindi speaking areas in regard to the public services. 

Article 344 (4)       Constitution of a Committee.

Article 344 (5)       Terms of reference for the Committee.

Article 344 (6)       Issuance of direction by the President. 

Chapter II-Regional Languages. 

Article 345             Official language or languages of a State 

                              Proviso - English to continue. 

Article 346             Official language for communication between one State and another or between a State and the Union - Official language of the Union. 

Article 347             Special provision relating to the language spoken by a section of the population of a State - President may give direction on demand. 

Chapter III - Language of Supreme Court & High Courts etc. 

Article 348(1)        Language to be used in Supreme Court and High Courts and for Acts and Bills etc. - English Until Parliament by law otherwise provides. 

Article 348(2)        Hindi or any other language to be authorized by Governor with the previous consent of President. 

Article 348(3)        English translation of Bills, Acts, Ordinances, rules, orders bye-laws, regulation to be etc. authoritative text. 

Article 349             This Article barred after 15 years of the commencement of Constitution of India. 

Chapter -IV- Special Directives

Article 350             Language to be used in representations for redressal of grievances - any of the languages used in the Union or in the State as the case may be. 

Article 350A          Facility for instruction in another tongue at primary stage for linguistic minority groups. 

Article 350B(1)     Special officer for linguistic minorities. 

Article 350B(2)     Duty of the Special Officer 

Article 351             Directive for the development of the Hindi Language

                              It shall be the duty of the Union:

Part-V Language to be used in the Legislative Assembly

Article 210 

(1)     Notwithstanding in Part XVII, but subject to the provisions of article 348, business in the legislature of a State shall be transacted in the official language or language of the State or in Hindi or in English.   

Providing that the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly or Chairman of the Legislative Council or person acting as such as the case may be, may permit any member who cannot adequately express himself in any of the languages aforesaid to address the House in his mother tongue. 

(2)     Unless the Legislature of the State, by law otherwise provides, this article shall, after the expiration of a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution have effect as it the words "or in English" were omitted therefrom. 

Relevant Constitutional Amendments: 


Enforced since


Amend articles 1, 3, 49, 80, 81, 82, 131, 153, 158, 168, 170, 171, 216, 217, 220, 222, 224, 230, 231 and 232.
 Insert articles 258A, 290A, 298, 350A, 350B, 371, 372A and 378A.
 Amend part 8.
 Amend schedules 1, 2, 4 and 7.[9]

1 November 1956

Reorganization of states on linguistic lines, abolition of Class A, B, C, D states and introduction of Union Territories

Amend schedule 8 

10 April 1967

Include Sindhi as an Official Language

Amend schedule 8

31 August 1992

Include Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali as Official Languages

Amend schedule 8.

7 January 2004

Include Bodo, Dogri, Santali and Maithali as official languages

Amend schedule 8

4 Nov 2011

Orissa was changed to Odisha as a statutory act and its language from Oriya to Odia.

Given below is the table of the languages and the linguistic population and the regions where they are used as per the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India, as on 1 December 2007. 



 (in millions, 2001)


Assamese (Asamiya)

Indo-Aryan, Eastern


Assam, Arunachal Pradesh

Bengali (Bangla)

Indo-Aryan, Eastern


West Bengal, Tripura




Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya


Indo-Aryan, Northwestern


Jammu and Kashmir


Indo-Aryan, Western


Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu,Gujarat


Indo-Aryan, Central

>260 (Native Hindi, Bhojpuri, Haryanvi, Pahari, Kumaoni, Garhwali, Angika, Awadhi, Marwari, Mewari, Shekhawati, Malwi, Bagri etc.)

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bihar,Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh,Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand




Karnataka , Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh , Maharashtra


Indo-Aryan, Dardic


Jammu and Kashmir


Indo-Aryan, Southern


Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka


Indo-Aryan, Eastern






Kerala, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu






Indo-Aryan, Southern


Maharashtra, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat,Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu,Karnataka, Telangana


Indo-Aryan, Northern


Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam


Indo-Aryan, Eastern


Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh


Indo-Aryan, Northwestern


Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan,Uttarakhand








Santhal tribals of the Chota Nagpur Plateau(comprising the states of Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand, Odisha)


Indo-Aryan, Northwestern


Sindh (now in Pakistan, Rajasthan, Kutch,Gujarat)




Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh




Andhra Pradesh, Telangana,yanam(Puducherry), Tamil Nadu, Karnataka,Odisha


Indo-Aryan, Central


Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Delhi, Bihar,Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Dr. R.K.Das

The author is a joint secretary of Rajya Sabha

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