Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Act, 2020

Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a huge change in the year 2019 after the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act. The State was reconstituted into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. While the former has a legislative assembly, the other is administered by a Lieutenant Governor. These reforms were made abrogating the special status provided under article 370 of the Constitution of India. Thereafter, central laws prevailed in the Union Territories.

In the year 2020, on September 22, a bill aiming to provide the languages to be used for the official purposes of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The bill stated to declare five languages — Kashmiri, Dogri, Urdu, Hindi and English as the official language for the Union Territory. 

Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy pointed out that 53.26% of the population of Jammu and Kashmir speaks Kashmiri Language, 26.64 speaks Dogri and 2.36% speaks Hindi, while Urdu being the then official language, is spoken by only 0.16% population. 

During the debate on the Bill, Naresh Gujral said that it was unfortunate to not include Punjabi language in the Bill and asked government to reconsider it. Adding to this, Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP)  demanded inclusion of Gojri, Punjabi and Pahari in the bill, saying that the motto of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” was lacking in the Sate.  

Answering to the suggestions, Amit Shah said that special efforts will be made for the development of major regional languages like Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi, along with strengthening the existing institutional structure for the promotion and development of regional languages. 

The bill was passed by Voice Vote and assent of the President was obtained on September 26, leading to the formation of the Jammu and Kashmir Official Reorganisation Act, 2020, which shall come in force on the date as the Central Government may notify in the Official Gazette. The selection of dates for different areas may be appointed by the Administrator. Further, it states that the English language may continue to be used for administrative and legislative purposes.

Prior to this Act, the official languages in the Union Territory were English and Urdu, but the major population was engaged in speaking other languages. This was not only a lagged barrier in the growth of the territory but being unaware of the legislative and administrative procedure, a struggle for the general public. New changes in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir might not be drastic but surely an inclination towards the growth for the territory as the three included languages cover their own benefits – Kashmiri covers wide range in the region, Dogri is recognised under the list of the Eighth schedule of the Constitution of India, and Hindi is the world’s third most spoken language. 

The enforcement will help the administrative and legislative procedures reach wide range of the population in the region which will lead in creation of awareness in the people and help in smooth functioning with a vivid vision. 

-Advocate Rytham Singh, High Court Madhya Pradesh

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