In a setback to the conferment of classical language status to Telugu and Kannada, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to interfere with an interim order of the Madras High Court that the grant of the status by the Centre on the basis of an expert committee’s recommendation would be subject to the final decision of the High Court in a litigation.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice B.S. Chauhan rejected a special leave petition filed by the Andhra Pradesh Official Language Commission and Deepak Thimaya challenging the Madras High Court’s order dated August 5, 2008.

The interim order said: “In the meantime, any decision taken by the committee [set up by the Government of India to consider grant of classical language status] will be subject to the decision in the writ petition [filed by senior advocate R. Gandhi alleging undue influence in the grant of classical language status].”

Appearing for the petitioners, Counsel K.V. Dhananjay submitted that the matter had been pending in the High Court for more than a year, but the court was reluctant to hear the petitioners. The CJI told counsel: “We do not believe that the High Court is reluctant to hear this matter. You go to the High Court.”

The petitioners submitted that the States of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were gravely injured by a decision of the Madras High Court. They said: “It was never the intention of our founding fathers that a High Court of State ‘A’ should ‘determine the legal relations between State ‘B’ and the Government of India,’ even if that High Court were motivated by a bona fide belief that its intervention is in the best interests of State ‘A’. The facts before the [High] Court do not even remotely suggest that the interests of the residents of the State of Tamil Nadu are best served by calling into question the arrangement between the Government of India and the States of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka before the Madras High Court.”

The Centre was mindful of the entitlement of Telugu and Kannada languages for ‘classical languages’ status and, therefore, constituted a committee to receive representations seeking such entitlement.

Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka furnished scholarly representation to the government seeking the conferment of classical status on Telugu and Kannada respectively. The committee recommended conferment of such status.

The Centre accepted the recommendation but issued a notification that such conferment would be subject to the result of the pending writ petition in the Madras High Court. The petitioners sought to quash the impugned order.