The constitutional provisions dealing with the language of the courts and legislation are as follows:
1. Until Parliament provides otherwise, the following are to be in the English language only:
(a) All proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every high court.
(b) The authoritative texts of all bills, acts, ordinances, orders, rules, regulations and bye-laws at the Central and state levels.
2. However, the governor of a state, with the previous consent of the president, can authorise the use of Hindi or any other official language of the state, in the proceedings in the high court of the state, but not with respect to the judgements, decrees and orders passed by it. In other words, the judgements, decrees and orders of the high court must continue to be in English only (until Parliament otherwise provides).
3. Similarly, a state legislature can prescribe the use of any language (other than English) with respect to bills, acts, ordinances, orders, rules, regulations or bye-laws, but a translation of the same in the English language is to be published.
The Official Language Act of 1963 lays down that Hindi translation of acts, ordinances, orders, regulations and bye-laws published under the authority of the president are deemed to be authoritative texts. Further, every bill introduced in the Parliament is to be accompanied by a Hindi translation. Similarly, there is to be a Hindi translation of state acts or ordinances in certain cases.
The act also enables the governor of a state, with the previous consent of the president, to authorise the use of Hindi or any other official language of the state for judgements, decrees and orders passed by the high court of the state but they should be accompanied by an English translation. For example, Hindi is used in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan for this purpose.
However, the Parliament has not made any provision for the use of Hindi in the Supreme Court. Hence, the Supreme Court hears only those who petition or appeal in English. In 1971, a petitioner insisted on arguing in Hindi a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court. But, the Court cancelled his petition on the ground that the language of the Court was English and allowing Hindi would be unconstitutional.