Hindi is a foreign language to farmers of Gujarat as it is not the language of the region, the Gujarat High Court observed while dealing with a petition objecting to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) publishing a notification in Hindi.

The observation was made last week by Justice V M Sahai, who was hearing petition filed by a group of residents of village Saraghvada of Junagadh district.

The court had concluded that by not publishing the notification in Gujarati, NHAI had committed an error, and quashed its notification issued last year in Hindi language and declared the process as null and void.

However, it refused to cancel the entire project.

"If we go through the meaning of the word 'vernacular' it is clear that the meaning of the word as per the dictionary is 'the language or dialect spoken by ordinary people of the country or region," the court said in the order. "This is an admitted position that the language of the region where the petitioners are residing, the language used by them is Gujarati and Hindi language used in the notification is a foreign language for them," it observed.

"The normal spoken language in the said region is Gujarati and not Hindi.

Similarly, government imparts education in primary school level is also Gujarati in the entire state of Gujarat including the region where the petitioners are residing," it added.

The court also held that the NHAI authorities have failed to undertake the procedure prescribed for public meeting as per the notification issued by Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.

According to case details, in 2006 NHAI had planned the widening of the existing two-lane national highway 8D to four lanes. However, it changed the alignment of the bypass last year on various grounds.

This change in plan affected farmers in Junagadh and Rajkot.

As per Section 3(A)3 of National Highways Act, the notification regarding a change in plan should have been published in Gujarati, but NHAI published it only in Hindi and English.

The notification was published in a leading Gujarati daily as well, but in Hindi. Farmers from Saraghvada village of Junagadh moved HC as their lands were to be acquired.

The villagers objected to the plan on technical grounds and also alleged that the plan was changed to benefit influential people.

They also alleged that the NHAI authorities have not followed the mandatory provisions while issuing notification as it was not issued in Gujarati language.