Ex-OPCC chief urges Union Law min to amend Article 173

Bhubaneswar: Former Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik today shot off a letter to Union Minister of Law Kapil Sibal demanding an amendment to Article 173 of the Constitution to make it mandatory for all members of the state assembly to be able to read, write and speak the language of the state.

Patnaik said it is astoundingly ironical that a person can't become a sarpanch in Odisha without knowing Odia, but he can be an MLA, Minister or even Chief Minister.

In fact, he said this loophole in the constitution needs to be plugged by a suitable amendment to Article 173 of the Constitution of India.

Stating that language issue has been critical to the formation of the union states, Niranjan Patnaik said Odisha was the first state to be formed on linguistic basis.

Odisha Assembly decided more than a quarter of a century back that Odia will be the official language of the state, said the letter.

The letter mentions that Odia is the official language of Odisha under Article 345 of the Constitution and yet, "the present Head of the Council of Ministers, i.e., the Chief Minister does not read, write, speak or understand Odia, particularly when Odisha happens to be the first state to be formed on linguistic basis."

Describing Sibal as a renowned legal luminary besides being the Law Minister, Patnaik said "You would agree that the loophole permitting members of legislature to be ignorant of the language of their state, needs to be plugged forthwith."

"Accordingly, there is a need to revert to Article 173 of the Constitution and add the following clause: 'Can speak, read, write and understand the official language of the State'."

"I feel that expecting all the members of the state assembly to know the official language of the state is justifiable, and therefore, you may consider initiating a broader debate on a suitable amendment to prevent persons not knowing the official language of the state from getting elected," Patnaik said.

Meanwhile, ridiculing Niranjan’s statement Higher Education minister Badrinarayan Patra said, “Why does he (Niranjan) have so much love for Odisha and its people after he lost the OPCC post? Why doesn't he support the fight of Odias for their just demand?”

The minister added Odisha chief minister Naveen can speak and understand Odia very well. “If he (Niranjan) has any doubt he can talk to the chief minister in Odia.”

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