What’s in a name?

Home minister Amit Shah introduced a bill to change the names of the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act

Home minister Amit Shah at Lok Sabha (photo: IANS)
Home minister Amit Shah at Lok Sabha (photo: IANS)

Ashlin Mathew

What is in a name, they say. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, wrote Shakespeare. However, can the same be said for Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill?

The 1860 Indian Penal Code will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita will replace the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill will replace Indian Evidence Act.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has raised his voice against the “linguistic imperialism”. He termed the audacious attempt by the BJP to tamper with the essence of India’s diversity through a sweeping overhaul of laws as “recolonisation through decolonisation”. It reeks of linguistic imperialism. “This is an affront to the very foundation of India’s unity. BJP and the PM Modi have no right to even utter the word Tamil hereafter. The fire of resistance against Hindi colonialism is ablaze once more. The BJP’s audacious bid to supplant our identity with Hindi will be opposed resolutely,” tweeted Stalin.

He pointed out that Tamil Nadu and DMK have emerged as the vanguards against such oppressive overtones. “From the anti-Hindi agitations to safeguarding our linguistic identity, we have withstood the storm of Hindi imposition before, and we shall do it again, with unyielding determination,” wrote Stalin.

The union government’s attempt to use Hindi for the names of these Bills goes against Article 348 of the Constitution. It states that the language to be used in the Supreme Court and in the High Courts and for Acts, Bills; of all Acts passed by Parliament or the Legislature of a State and of all Ordinances promulgated by the President or the Governor of a state; and of all orders, rules, regulations and bye laws issued under this Constitution or under any law made by Parliament or the legislature of a state, shall be in the English language.

DMK MP P Wilson quipped that South Indian lawyers were going to spend most of the time in courts trying to pronounce these names. “Earlier, when the Union Government tried to introduce a legislation with a Hindi name in Parliament, I had opposed the same and the Union Finance Minister had clarified that the name of the Bill was in English. The Hindi portion should have been in brackets. Now in the case of these three Bills, the name is entirely in Hindi. This must be corrected at once,” noted Wilson.

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