By Anand Parthasarathy
February 25, 2023: The High Court of Kerala is the first among the states to publish its judgments in the local language – Malayalam – in addition to English.
Earlier this week, judgments of a division bench headed by Chief Justice S.Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly, delivered last month were posted on the court’s website in the Malayalam language, reports the legal news portal, Bench and Bar.
This comes even as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud announced that translations of its judgments would be made available in the first instance in four languages –Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati and Odia.
On Republic Day, January 26, a tranche of 1091 judgments of the apex court, translated into Hindi were made available in the court’s e-SCR portal. Also available were translations of some judgments in Odia, Malayalam, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Urdu etc.
A committee headed by Justice Abhay S.Oka is overseeing the translation efforts at the Supreme Court, while in Kerala the larger task of digitising all records and helping the push towards a paperless functioning of courts is being overseen by Justice Mushtaq Mohammed.
In a complementary development at the Supreme Court this week, Artificial Intelligence was harnessed to provide live transcriptions of hearings in the Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice hearing the Maharashtra political parties case on an experimental basis.
A scrolling display of the arguments and the judges’ remarks was set up for the benefit of lawyers and law students and senior advocates for both plaintiff and defendant as well as government lawyers have hailed the service as a milestone.
While inaugurating software for the e-inspection of digitised judicial files of the Delhi High Court, last month Chief Justice Chandrachud said:
“We must understand that the language which we use namely English, is a language which is not comprehensible, particularly in its legal avatar, to 99.9% of our citizens…Real access to justice cannot be meaningful, unless citizens are able to access and understand in a language which they speak and comprehend, the judgments which we deliver whether in the high courts or in the Supreme Court." ( quoted in Live Law).
With the Kerala initiative, it appears, push has come to shove and other state courts will be motivated to make local language versions of judgments, the exception rather than the rule.