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English in the Domain of Legal Services: Problems of Access in Pakistan

Ayaz Ahmad1, Sana Hussan2 & Ayesha Butt3

Abstract
English as the official language dominates the domain of legal services and its functions in Pakistan. Keeping prevalent lack of English language proficiency in mind, access to justice becomes a major problem for those who are not proficient in English language. This paper analyses the role of English language in facilitating access to justice for the key participants i.e. litigants and lawyers etc. The qualitative analysis of questionnaire and interview based data
confirms entrenched position of English language in the domain that discriminates against the less proficient users. The participants belonging to marginalized social, economic and political strata, therefore, face hindrance in accessing justice due to lack of English language proficiency as compared to the mainstream elite. Dominance of English language in the domain of legal services thus associates with the formation and perpetuation of class difference in Pakistan. The paper proposes remedial steps including investment in the capacity building of judiciary
to provide translation services to litigants, lawyers and public. Further, it is proposed that substantive steps should be taken to incorporate the local and national languages in the functions of judiciary.

Keywords: Language Policy and Planning, Access to Justice, Language Based Barriers, National Language, Official Language