Importance of English in a law school

In Present
May 30, 2021

LEARN ENGLISH BEFORE LAW!

For anyone studying law in Hindi or any local language in India, the inescapable question of ‘How important is English’ always arises. 

As Barney said, ‘true story’, the Supreme Court in 2017 fined a petitioner in a criminal case, Rs 25,000 for filing an incorrect English version of a judicial order in Hindi which was incorrect in spelling, sentence structure, word use, and punctuation.

So apparently, the judges in this case, struggled for about an hour. The order written by the petitioner made absolutely no sense at all. They said and I quote,

“We have never come across an order blended with such grammatical errors and other mistakes ”.[1]

The image of two very experienced judges taking over an hour to try to decode something with horrible grammar never fails to make me laugh.

The crazy law-based tv serial ‘Adaalat’ on which we all drooled as teenagers dealt with the IPC. Indian Penal Code, as we all know, was enacted in 1860 while India was still a British colony. We inherited the current legal structure from the English-speaking Britishers. 

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Our laws were written in English and then translated into regional or Hindi languages. The importance of English is unquestionable. So, a good foothold on English could only ever help a person excel in this profession as the High Courts and the Supreme Court use English as their sole means of communication.

No doubt Hindi and local languages do help to a huge extent in dealing and connecting with clients because a huge population in India still speaks Hindi. Only about 0.02% of people speak English as their first language. But, if one doesn’t quite know English and if they’re willing to pursue this profession, they also need to embrace the fact that their acumen will be limited to the lower courts. In higher courts, however, one requires proficiency in English, hence establishing the importance of English.

To illustrate with an example, assume you have a Supreme Court hearing coming up :

You’ve written down and prepared your arguments in Hindi. The next day, you see two Judges in the courtroom, one from Karnataka and another from Kerala, neither of whom speak Hindi. You can’t expect them to comprehend your situation and arguments and render a reasonable decision now, can you? Hence, English is merely a means of overcoming the language barrier. This barrier exists innately between people from different parts of the country. Thus, English helps contribute to a functional judicial system. 

If you aren’t well versed with the English language or aren’t confident enough,

these are some tips to improve your English:

  • Read English newspapers daily, we know it sucks sometimes, so start small. Read some news clippings and majorly focus on editorials. 
  • Try to list down some English words from these newspapers (at least 10 words per day)
  • Try to incorporate these words into your day-to-day conversations.
  • For further assistance, you can refer to books like ‘Word Power Made easy’.
  • Lastly, have faith in yourself and your process. There is nothing to be ashamed of, we’ve all worked hard for something or the other in life. We fail sometimes but that doesn’t mean we’re not good enough. Don’t let anybody question how special you are.
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The creators of ‘Hindi Medium’ are proud of us. Watch it if you haven’t (wink, wink).

To conclude, words are the most valuable weapons in a lawyer’s arsenal. The majority of what we do is try to persuade others, orally or in writing to change their point of view. Thus, fluency in the English language to a certain degree is essential.

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Edited by:

Sources:

  1. NDTV India  [ https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/a-rs-25-000-fine-for-wrong-grammar-punctuation-in-court-order-translation-1408391 ]
  2. Twitter account of @saurabhank001
  3. https://th.bing.com/th/id/OIP.kGeUM6t8WQAhG7hvL1MrtAHaM0?pid=ImgDet&rs=1

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