New Delhi: The Modi government’s move to replace the three existing criminal law codes with three new Bills is facing criticism from opposition parties due to its nomenclature in Hindi.
On Friday (August 11), Union home minister Amit Shah introduced the three new Bills in the Lok Sabha including the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898; and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 to replace Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Shah said that the new Bills will reform the country’s criminal justice system and shed its colonial legacy.
Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K Stalin has, however, contended that in the name of decolonisation, the Union government is attempting “recolonisation.”
In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), Stalin lashed out at the naming of the three new Bills as an “audacious attempt by the Union BJP Government to tamper with the essence of India’s diversity through a sweeping overhaul” which “reeks of linguistic imperialism.”
“This is an affront to the very foundation of India’s unity. BJP and Prime Minister Modi have no moral right to even utter the word Tamil hereafter.”
“The fire of resistance against #HindiColonialism is ablaze once more. The BJP’s audacious bid to supplant our identity with Hindi will be opposed resolutely,” he added.
Union minister for education and skill development Dharmendra Pradhan responded to Stalin’s tweet, calling it “petty politics.”
Pradhan said in a tweet that such “petty politics” may serve the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s political ambitions well but “it weakens the spirit of India.”
Pradhan said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “have always been vociferous about promoting and preserving India’s linguistic diversity, including Tamil.”
“Kashi Tamil Sangamam was one such glowing example. And, this causes heartache to those who have a misplaced thought that India’s cultural continuum and literary pride is propriety of a few dynasts,” he said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that Stalin’s reaction “is hardly surprising & should have been anticipated.”
“It would have cost the government little to have the names of the new Bills in both Hindi and English (as required by Article 348 of the constitution),” he said.
“But they chose to rub their Hindi chauvinism into the faces of everyone else & have thus undone all the efforts made by the PM & other ministers to praise Tamil’s rich legacy & hail Tamil culture at every opportunity.”
“Yet another own-goal by the petty minds in the BJP!”
Article 348 (b) states that all Bills or amendments to be moved in either House of parliament or state legislature, all acts passed by parliament or state legislatures, ordinances passed by the President or state governors, and all orders, rules, regulations and bye laws issued under the Constitution or under any law made by Parliament or the Legislature of a State, shall be in the English language.
The law also adds that in the instance of laws being made by state legislatures in any other Indian language, a translation needs to be available of the text in English.
Earlier on Friday, DMK MP P. Wilson had also stated that the move to name the new Bills in Hindi is “yet another form of Hindi imposition.”
“South Indian lawyers are going to spend most of the time in courts trying to pronounce these names.”
Senior advocate in the Supreme Court Mohan Katarki has also criticised the naming of the new Bills.
“Hindi title in English version of the Bill is wholly arbitrary and unconstitutional. It’s an attempt to impose Hindi on non-Hindi people. Even otherwise, changes are superficial,” he said.
Speaking to The Wire earlier, senior advocate in Delhi high court Sanjoy Ghose had said that this is “unheard of.”
“All legislations, in the form of Ordinances or Bills have a Hindi and an English version. But this is for the first time that they have given the English version a Hindi name and forced a Hindi name on English law.”
He added that this also needs to be seen in the light of a very Brahmincal Hindi imposition as well.
“The reason I say this is that is a very Sanskritised Hindi name that they have given, for instance, it could have been named simply Bharatiya Danda Kosh, for instance, but instead it is called Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which is a very Sanskritised Hindi,” he said.