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Court speaks up for language right

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Bangalore
  • Published 3.07.08
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Bangalore, July 3: Karnataka High Court has struck down a government order that had made Kannada the compulsory medium of instruction in unaided primary schools.

The court order came as a relief to more than 3,000 schools that were threatened with closure by the government last year for violating rules by teaching in English.

The state had in 1994 issued a directive that the medium of instruction in all new schools, including unaided ones, should be in Kannada only.

As new English-medium schools were not being allowed to open, many school bodies had secured permission to start Kannada-medium institutions but continued to teach in English.

The government last year warned these schools and threatened to close them down.

The court’s order now has come as a reprieve as it held that such laws were against the fundamental rights of parents and children.

A bench of Chief Justice Joseph Cyriac and Justices Manjula Chellur and N. Kumar termed the 1994 order unconstitutional and ruled that parents had the right to choose the language of instruction for their children.

“The parents’ decision to impart education in a well-known international language like English cannot be bypassed. The government can make Kannada or (the) mother tongue compulsory in schools run or aided by the government,” the bench said.

K.S. Krishna Iyer, secretary-general of the Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka, one of the petitioners, said the association fought for parents’ right to choose the medium of instruction for their child.

“When the Supreme Court upheld Tamil Nadu High Court’s order quashing a similar notification giving primacy to Tamil in Tamil Nadu, we were confident that we would win our case here,” he added.

After the verdict, people from the rival camp, like Kannada Development Authority chairman M. Chandru, said they hoped the government would take steps to promote the language.

Basavaraj Horatti, the minister who had taken action against schools violating the government order, said authorities would find it difficult to monitor mushrooming English private schools.

Primary education minister V.H. Kageri hinted they might move the apex court.