B.S. Ramesh

The order is likely to revolutionise the education field in Karnataka

BANGALORE: The verdict of the Karnataka High Court on the contentious 1994 language policy has come as a big blow to the State Government and pro-Kannada organisations, which all along defended the policy on the medium of instruction.

What is more galling to the State is that though the High Court has upheld in toto the 1982 language policy, it has only partly allowed the 1994 policy.

Incidentally, the April 30, 1982, order had prescribed Kannada or mother tongue of a student to be the first language at the secondary school level.

The 1982 order said that Kannada teaching should be made compulsory from primary level in non-Kannada schools.

This order was challenged in the High Court, which on January 27, 1984, struck it down as invalid.

The court, however, gave liberty to the State to pass appropriate orders or rules prescribing one or more language along with the mother tongue as a compulsory subject at the primary school level.

The State then filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the High Court judgment. Even as a decision was pending, on June 10, 1989 it issued an order framing a language policy.

Narasimhaiah panel

Subsequently, the Government constituted a committee under the chairmanship of H. Narasimhaiah to examine problems pertaining to unauthorised English medium schools and the feasibility of having English as the medium of instruction at the primary school level.

After the committee submitted its report, the Government on April 28, 1992, and again on June 24, 1992, said schools which were not eligible to teach in English medium may be permitted to have either Kannada or any other language as the medium of instruction.

On December 8, 1993, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court order on the validity of the 1989 Government order.

The Supreme Court, however, said that as far as effective implementation of the language policy was concerned, the State was the best judge and that the court shall not interfere with it.

This order led the State to believe that it had been vested with the power to frame a comprehensive language policy.

The State then framed the 1994 language policy which came to be challenged in the High Court. Wednesday’s verdict by the Full Bench makes it very clear that the State can only regulate and not restrict the right of the students and their parents to choose the medium of instruction.

As the verdict is based on the Constitution and several judgments of the Supreme Court, including the T.M. A. Pai, Unnikrishnan and St. Xavier’s cases, the State would now be hard pressed to overcome them.

More In: KARNATAKA | NATIONAL