The Madras High Court was recently left shocked by a spelling error in a letter written in Tamil, which even after flagging to the standing counsel to correct, the officer concerned could not spot the error. The bench commented, Her Tamil teacher had probably not taught her the difference between ‘u’ and ‘w’ (two letters in Tamil originally)”.

Justice G.R. Swaminathan further remarked, “I am conscious that those living in glass houses should not throw stones at others. The certified copies of the orders signed by the High Court Judges often bristle with spelling and grammatical errors. But as the immortal poet Bharathiyar said in a different context, it is one thing to maul and mutilate English language but murdering mother tongue is unacceptable”.

Advocate R. Sundar appeared for the petitioner, and Standing Counsel S. Deenadhayalan appeared for the respondent.

In the present matter, the petitioner was enjoying an electricity connection under the commercial category. His grievance was therefore that a defective meter was installed which showed an incorrect reading. As per the averments made, the petitioner gave a representation, requiring the respondents to act on the same.

The third respondent- Assistant Engineer, Operation and Distribution, Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) had earlier addressed a letter to the petitioner in Tamil. However, in the same letter, the last word in Tamil language was spelt incorrectly.

Noting that the bench observed in the order, “I have dwelt on this subject because the official communications must be grammatically and linguistically correct. We are all concerned about the fall in standards. We are not able to speak in chaste Tamil without a liberal mix of English words. At least our written language must be pure and free of errors”.

The bench also narrated a personal incident, where Justice Swaminathan’s wife had asked the residential office assistant to buy her some articles. Pursuant to this, in the statement of accounts, the balance amount was mentioned in Tamil incorrectly. Another instance was cited, where a student who was involved in a controversy, had sought an apology through a letter written in Tamil. The bench, however, after perusing the said letter was of the opinion that after reading the letter and the errors that took the nature of offence to a different course, the writ petition should have ordinarily been dismissed on that mistake but the Court rather took a lenient view.

However, looking at the grievance of the petitioner, the Court was of the opinion that it was satisfied that the issue should be looked into. Accordingly, directed the second respondent- The Executive Engineer, Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) to look into the petitioner's representation and take appropriate action. Further directed the meter to be inspected and tested and if it turns out to be defective, to install a new meter.

Resultantly, the bench disposed of the writ petition with no costs.

Cause Title: E. Anver Ali v. The Superintending Engineer, Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO)

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