Supreme Court orders govt to adopt Urdu as official language

Published September 8, 2015
A three member bench headed by CJ Jawwad S Khawaja directed the govt to fulfill its constitutional obligation. —AFP/File
A three member bench headed by CJ Jawwad S Khawaja directed the govt to fulfill its constitutional obligation. —AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed federal and provincial governments to adopt Urdu as official language in the country.

Announcing the verdict on petition filed by Advocate Kokab Iqbal, pertaining to promotion and implementation of Urdu language, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja directed the government to fulfill its constitutional obligation.

"In the governance of the federation and the provinces there is hardly any necessity for the use of the colonial language which cannot be understood by the public at large."

Even for many civil servants and public officials, who may have received education in English, this language would in most cases, not be the language most used by them, read the SC's verdict

It went on to read that "many officials are therefore forced to spend time on attempting to initiate and take decisions in a language which they are not entirely comfortable with".

"The time thus spent is quite wasteful because a lot of energy is dedicated to deciphering the language of the noting (which could have been easily drafted in the Urdu language) itself rather than understanding its content or substance.

"This wasteful exercise at times results in absurd and farcical outcomes which would be wholly avoided by use of the National language," read the SC judgement.

The bench has directed both the federal and provincial governments to strictly follow the timeline presented in the court for implementation of Urdu as official language.

The judgment is also binding on the statutory and regulatory bodies of the federal as well as provincial governments.

The court ordered that copies of this Judgment be sent to all the federal as well as provincial secretaries, who are to take immediate steps for enforcement of Article 251 in line with Article 5 of the Constitution.

The court further ordered that the the concerned federal and provincial secretaries shall submit reports showing compliance with the above orders.

The first report of progress should be fixed in Court within three months.

Related: PM. President to deliver speeches in Urdu, SC told

The short term measures

During an earlier hearing on July 11, the federal government informed the Supreme Court that an executive order had been issued to make it mandatory for the president, prime minister, federal ministers and other official representatives to deliver their speeches in Urdu while within the country or abroad.

The secretary, information and broadcasting also also submitted a ‘short-term’ strategy report before the Supreme Court.

According to short-term measures, federal government departments have been asked to translate their policies and rules in Urdu in three months. The forms relating to all the government and semi-government institutions will be in Urdu and at key public places like courts, police stations, hospitals, parks, educational institutions and banks the information signs will be in Urdu besides the English language.

Likewise, contents of utility bills, passports, driving licences and various documents of the Auditor General’s office, Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue and Election Commission of Pakistan would also be in the national language.

The final verdict today directs that these time-lines which are given by the Government itself must be considered for implementation in line with Article 251 of constitution.

Article 251 of the Constitution

(1) The National language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day.

(2) Subject to clause (1), the English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu.

(3) Without prejudice to the status of the national language, a provincial assembly may by law prescribe measures for the teaching, promotion and use of a provincial language in addition to the national language.

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