What are you talking? SC rebuts State counsel on 'divisive' nature of English

English and Hindi unite the country, says apex court judge

What are you talking? SC rebuts State counsel on 'divisive' nature of English

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected  the State government’s claim that if English took precedence as medium of instruction in schools over mother tongue, it would divide the country.

Disputing the Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar’s assertion before the five-judge constitution bench that “it was universally accepted that mother tongue was the best way of imparting education” and “if only English was accepted, it would be dividing the nation,” Justice R M Lodha riposted “What are you talking? If one language which has unifying effect on the country, it is English.”

Rebutting Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar’s justification of State’s government order of 1994 mandating ‘Kannada’ or mother tongue as medium of instruction from Class I to IV in all school as “it would enhance the standard of education,” Justice Lodha, presiding over the bench, said “it is English and Hindi which are uniting the country.”

The bench, also comprising Justices A K Patnaik, Dipak Misra, S J Mukhopadhaya and F M I Kalifullah, reserved order on the reference made by a division bench.
The apex court, had in July last, framed a number of questions while adjudicating on the decision of the State government.

During the hearing, State’s Advocate General pointed out that despite government order on medium of instructions, minority institutions had a choice to run their schools as guaranteed under Constitution but were subjected to certain regulations.
The court, however, sought explanation as to how he would propose to handle a class of students having different languages as their mother tongue.

Different counsel, representing groups of private unaided and minority institutions, opposed State government’s order on medium of instruction. Advocate Mohan Katarki, appearing for Associated Management, conglomerate of unaided schools, submitted that the definition of mother tongue had to be interpreted liberally and be left to parents’ declaration.

Some other counsel described the order as discriminatory and against the interest of minority institutions.

The apex court while referring the matter to a Constitution bench, had urged it to adjudicate what mother tongue meant, if it related to language in which the child is comfortable with, then who has to decide it and if a student or a parent or a citizen has a right to choose a medium of instruction at primary stage.

The other questions sent for Constitution bench’s consideration included if imposition of mother tongue in any way affected fundamental rights, whether government-recognised schools are inclusive of both government-aided schools and private and unaided schools and if the State can by virtue of Article 350A of Constitution compel linguistic minorities to choose their mother tongue only as medium of instruction in primary schools.

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