On the language policy of the Civil Services Examination 2013 – Aaditya Gore

UPSC 2013 copy

The Union Public Service Commission announced its Civil Services Examination notification dated 5th March 2013. The new policy vide the notification made it compulsory for a candidate to have graduated in the medium of the language other than English or Hindi in order to avail of the option of taking the Civil Services Main examination in that particular language. It also made it compulsory for there to be a minimum of 25 candidates opting for taking the examination in that language to be able to exercise the choice, failing which the candidate would have to take the examination in English or Hindi. The notification also made the hitherto qualifying English language paper a scoring one among the other papers which led to protests from all over and this move was criticized as as being insensitive towards the weaker sections. After a furore in the Parliament, the language policy regarding the Civil Services Examination is put in abeyance[1], according to Hon’ble Minister of State for Personnel and Training, Mr. V. Narayansamy.

The recommendations of the High Level Committee headed by Prof. Arun S. Nigavekar, former Chairman, UGC with a view to making the Civil Services main examination ‘more relevant to the present day,’ according to the Hon’ble Minister[2], were approved by the government[3].

Although some of the reforms in the new pattern include greater emphasis on General Studies, that has hardly been a contentious issue in this case. The real bone of contention lies in the conditions laid down for a person to be able to take the Civil Service Main examination in a language other than English or Hindi. Some of these conditions, according to the 2013 EXAMINATION NOTICE NO. 04/2013-CSP DATED 5.03.2013[4] are cited from the notification :

(iii) Candidates will have the option to answer all the question papers, except Section 2 of the Paper-I (English comprehension and English précis) in English or Hindi. If the candidate has had his/ her graduation in any of the following language mediums using the particular language medium for qualifying the graduate level examination, then he/she may opt for that particular language medium to answer all the question papers, except Section 2 of the Paper-I (English comprehension and English précis).

Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu

(iv) However, in the interest of maintaining the quality and standards of examination, a minimum number of 25 (twenty-five) candidates should opt for a specific language medium for answering the question papers in that language medium. In case there are less than 25 (twentyfive) candidates opting for any approved language medium (other than English or Hindi), then those candidates will be required to write their examination either in Hindi or in English only.(emphasis supplied)

 With utmost respect, it is submitted that it is not possible for a candidate speaking an Indian language other than Hindi to have been able to graduate in the medium of his/her own mother tongue. Take the example of subjects like engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, modern medicine, veterinary science, geology or law, for which there would be hardly any university offering courses through the Marathi medium, for example. The same is the case with Hindi. This means that a candidate who for example, cannot graduate in geology or physics through the Marathi medium, could not have done so through the Hindi medium either. Why then, is it open to the candidate to choose Hindi besides English but not Marathi, even if less than 25 people are taking the examination in Hindi? Also, the notification dated 5th March 2013 requires a quorum of 25 candidates for allowing a candidate to opt for taking the examination in an Indian language other than Hindi. Now this poses a problem for candidates belonging to the linguistic minorities, from which a few people may appear for the Civil Services Examination every year. And how would the quality and standards of the examination take a hit if less than 25 candidates appear for the examination through a medium other than Hindi or English?

The salutary principle of fair and equal treatment to all citizens in respect of state employment and the all-encompassing, pluralistic vision of our Constitution which has hitherto guided policy-making in respect of All-India institutions and examinations must always be borne in mind. Although reforms in the pattern of examination with respect to the increased emphasis on General Studies are changes that affect all candidates equally, the qualification of the choice of language in which a candidate may take the examination affects the non-Hindi speakers in a manner which is unacceptable. The notification states that the same examination can be attempted without any qualification whatsoever, in Hindi. Now, this not only places the Hindi speaker on a higher pedestal, thus destroying the concepts of equality in terms of state employment and of equality before law, but also places him/her at an unfair advantage over the speakers of other Indian languages. Instead of fostering unity, such measures have the potential of fomenting division among Indians by lopsided treatment and unequal treatment of equals. With due respect to Hindi, it is a settled Constitutional position that all Indian languages are, by virtue of being Indian languages, ‘national’ languages. Hindi is the official language of the Union. However, as one of the languages of India, it has no special ‘national’ character over and above the other languages of the Union of India[5]. The new policy will achieve better form after due Parliamentary debate and deliberation.


[1]UPSC notification put on hold

[2] UPSC suggests changes in civil services exams : Government

[3]PM approves changes in civil services exam pattern

[4] Examination Notice

[5] Indian Constitutional Law (5th edition reprint 2005) –  Prof. M. P. Jain, at pg 772

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