(1) The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.

The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.

 

(2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement:

 

   Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.

 

(3) Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of —

 

(a) the English language, or

 

(b) the Devanagari form of numerals,

 

for such purposes as may be specified in the law.

Debate Summary

Draft Article 301A, Munshi-Ayyangar Proposal,1949

(1) The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.

The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.

 (2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement:

    Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.

 (3) Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of —

 (a) the English language, or

 (b) the Devanagari form of numerals,

 for such purposes as may be specified in the law

The question of a national/official language for India generated intense debate and conflict in the Constituent Assembly/

In the Draft Constitution of India, 1948 there were no provisions related to national or official language. It was only 12th September 1948, that language provisions were formally moved in the Assembly by Gopalaswami Ayyangar; these provisions came to be popularly referred to as the ‘Munshi-Ayyangar formula’ to indicate the authors of the proposal. K.M. Munshi and Ayyangar were tasked by the Assembly to propose language provisions that could be accepted by all warring groups. These provisions were moved together and taken up by the Assembly on 12th, 13th, and 14th September 1949.

Draft Article 301-A was the first Article in the proposal. Among other things, it declared Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language of the union and the use of the international form of Indian numerals for official purposes.

The members who had always been against Hindi reluctantly accepted the Article but pointed out that no language could be imposed on India just because it was part of the Constitution.  There were others who still persevered to dislodge Hindi – an amendment was moved to replace it with Hindustani.

The adoption of Hindi as the official language in the Draft Article was a huge concession to the ‘Hindi-wallahs’ in the Assembly. However, they were still not happy with the provision, they criticised it,  strategized outside Assembly, and moved amendments. First, they felt that if the Devanagari script was adopted, then why not the Devanagari system of numerals? Second, they were concerned that the Article gave too much time for the replacement of English with Hindi – they wanted the replacement to happen much sooner.

Finally, after a lot of backroom jostling, the Hindi-wallahs put forward a bunch of amendments. The Assembly adopted one of these amendments: Parliament could, in addition to English, legislate on Nagari numerals as well. This effectively allowed parliament to sanction the use of Devanagari numerals even before the 15 year period.

The Assembly adopted the Draft Article with the amendment.