State Government of Karnataka on 29 January 2015 decided to amend the Karnataka Compulsory Primary Education Act (KCPEA), 2012. The KCPEA will be amended to impart primary education in Kannada language in the State.
The State government decided to amend the Section 19(2) of the Act by inserting words Mother Tongue Kannada. This insertion guarantees that Kannada language will become compulsory for children from Class I to V.
The amendment to the KCPEA 2012 was decided to strengthen Karnataka’s case before the Supreme Court (SC) where a related case is pending.
Supreme Court of India on 6 May 2014 held that the government cannot impose mother tongue on linguistic minority for imparting primary education.
The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha on petitions that challenged two Karnataka government orders of 1994 making mother tongue or regional language compulsory for imparting education from Class I to IV.
Use of language in Karnataka’s school
Karnataka as a state is witnessing the demand of Kannada to be used as the first language in schools since 1980s, when it saw a people’s movement called Gokak Agitation.
The agitation was named after a committee headed by VK Gokak which in report recommended that Kannada should be made the medium of instruction in all government, aided, unaided and private schools up to Standard 4 in the State. This report was submitted to the State Government led by the then Chief Minister R Gundu Rao.
Formal action on the report was taken in April 1994 after the state government headed by the then Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily issued a notification to implement the recommendation. The notification gave just two options as medium of instruction and they were:
• Mother tongue of the child, which covered eight languages; and
With this notification, State government gave permission only to those to open schools which have Kannada or any one of the eight languages as the medium of instruction. The eight languages included Tamil, Urdu and Telugu.
Following this notification, the Karnataka Unaided Schools Managements Association (KUSMA), an umbrella organisation, along with several others, filed writ petitions in the Karnataka High Court and termed it illegal as per the Constitution of India.
The plea argued that that the parents of the child had a right to decide what language should be used for study and language cannot be compulsorily imposed on a child.
This notification was cancelled by the three-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court on 2 July 2008.
The State government challenged the high court’s verdict in the Supreme Court (SC). The five-judge bench of SC unanimously upheld KUSMA’s petition on 6 May 2014. On 9 September 2014, a review petition of the state was also dismissed.
At present, the state has filed a curative petition in the court.
When: 29 January 2015