[Judgement] Pramati Judgement: Right to mother tounge vs Right to run English Medium Schools

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  1. P1: [SC order] Mother tongue education in Karnataka
  2. P2: Pramati Judgement: RTE doesn’t apply to Minority schools

P1: [SC order] Mother tongue education in Karnataka

Newspapers have made a simple matter too complex. Moral of the story is just two points:

  1. Karnataka government wants every kid be educated in “Non-English” medium for class1 to 4.
  2. Private school-walla wants “English Medium” from class1 itself. Supreme Court says they’ve right to do so.

Now let’s get into technical details:

1994: Karnataka government orders following

  • From class 1 to 4: student should be taught Kannada OR Mother tongue (Tulu, Kodagu, Konkani etc) only.
  • after class 5, student can shift to English medium or any other medium

Private schools (English medium) did not like this order. NOT ONE BIT.

Matter goes to Karnataka High court
School ownersKarnataka government’s defense
  • Class 1 to 4 students (and their parents) have right to choose medium of instruction in class1 to 4.
  • They should be allowed to pick English medium also.
  • Hence Karnataka government’s order is constitutionally ultra vires.
  • Article 350A: State needs to provide facility for mother tongue education @primary school.
  • In a previous case, SC upheld that State government has right to prescribe medium of instruction in schools.

Taarikh pe Taarikh…fast forward to 2008 Karnataka high court ruled that

19/1/G
  • Right to carry any occupation. (English medium) school owners have right to carry occupation (i.e. running English medium school.)
  • State cannot force them to teach them only in mother tongue (tulu etc.) or Kannada.
21A
  • Right to free and compulsory education.
  • But that also implies freedom to choose (English) medium, even in primary school.
26/A
  • Religious freedom=> right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
  • Charitable- indirectly includes educational institutions also. (whether minority or majority, both have this right) so they’re free to pick their medium.
29/1Religious and linguistic minorities have right to setup their own educational institution. they’re also free to pick their medium.
29/2no citizen can be denied admission to an educational institution only on the grounds of language

Given these Constitutional provisions. Karnataka HC ordered that

for government schools, government funded private schoolsGovernment recognized private (self-financed) schools
state can order them to teach Kannada as one of the languagesGovernment cannot force them to teach in mother tongue or Kannada.

This time, Karnataka State government did not like it. NOT ONE BIT. So they went to Supreme Court. Again Taarikh pe Taarikh. Finally May 6, 2014 The Supreme Court ordered following: (and Hence the topic in news for May week1)

Q1. What does Mother tongue mean? Who’ll decide a child’s mother tongue?

SC order:

  • Mother tongue doesn’t mean the language which the child is comfortable with.
  • Parent/guardian of the child will decide his mother tongue.

Q2. Does a student or a parent has a right to choose a medium of instruction at primary school?

SC order

  • Yes, under Article 19/1/a: Freedom of speech and expression. Under this, a child (and his parent/guardian on his behalf) can chose the medium even at primary school. State cannot impose any language on them.
  • Under 19/1/g: right to carry occupation. So (English medium) school owners also have right to run their business (of running English medium school). State government cannot force them to teach in mother tongue (tulu etc) or Kannada at primary level.
  • And Article 21 or 21A is irrelevant here.

Q3. IF state government forces the schools to teach in a specific language, does it affect fundamental rights Article 14, 19, 29 or 30?

SC order:

  • yes it affects fundamental rights under those articles
  • And therefore, an aggrieved citizen can approach court to seek relief.

Q4. What is the meaning of “Government recognized school”? Only sarkaari schools or private (Self-financed) schools also counted in it?

SC order: all schools counted in it:

  1. government schools
  2. government aided private schools
  3. Self-financed private schools (if government has granted recognition) to them

Q6. Can government compel linguistic minorities to choose only their mother tongue in government recognized primary schools?

SC order: No. (Union or state) Government doesn’t have such powers.

In other words, Karnataka government cannot “order” any school to teach only in mother tongue or Kannada. The said school has freedom to teach in any medium (Even English medium.)

P2: Pramati Judgement: RTE doesn’t apply to Minority schools

Supreme court gave this Judgment in May 2014, in a petition of Pramati Educational and Cultural trust (Karnataka based).

  1. All minority schools are outside the purview right to education act.
  2. In other words, poor students (from majority section) cannot claim 25% reservation in minority schools, despite what RTE says.
  3. It doesn’t matter whether such minority schools get government funding or not. They still don’t fall under RTE act because Article 30/1.
  4. Supreme Court upheld Article 21A (right to education) and right to education act 2009 are constitutionally valid, but they’re subject to Article 30.
Does State have right to enforce reservation in minority institutions?
ArticleProvision
15(5)State can declare reservation in self-financed institutes, for socially and economically backward classes. (But they cannot enforce it on minority institutes, as per Pramati Judgement.)
21ARight to free and compulsory education. And to enforce this right government enacted right to education act 2009, which provided minimum 25% reservation to poor kids in every school.
but as per Pramati Judgement, this doesn’t apply to minority schools.
19/1Right to occupation. Minority school owners have “right to occupation” i.e. running school for minorities. Government cannot force them to admit students from majority group (religious or linguistic).
30 (1)Fundamental right of all minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. This is the basis of Pramati Judgement.

Mock Questions

Sample MCQ: What is Pramati Judgement?

  1. Article 21A is part of the basic structure of Constitution
  2. The state is empowered to enforce reservation in any private institution to implement Article 21A
  3. The state is empowered to enforce reservation even on linguistic and religious basis, to implement Article 21A.
  4. The state cannot interfere in minority institutions to enforce Article 21A.

Suppose, government orders English medium school owners to teach only in vernacular mother tongues such as Hindi, Tamil etc. then which articles can the school owners use to get relief from HC or SC?

  1. Article 21 and 21A
  2. 19/1/a and 19/1/g
  3. Article 21A and 19/1/g
  4. They can’t do anything because government is constitutionally empowered to do so under Article 350A.

Ans. D- State can’t enforce 21A in minority institutions.
GS2 (Mains): Answer following each in 200 words and ~7 minutes

  1. “Pramati Judgment has curtailed the right of the state to implement right to education“. comment
  2. “State’s power to enforce reservation under 15/5, 21A or RTE, is not absolute.” Comment
  3. “The state has no right to impose mother tongue in primary schools.” Elaborate.

Visit Mrunal.org/Polity for entire Archive of Polity articles published so far.

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