The Karnataka High Court, on Tuesday, October 26, asked the state government to reconsider its decision to make it mandatory for college students to learn Kannada compulsorily. The Higher Education Department floated this new policy decision as part of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP). According to Live Law, the bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum noted that the state cannot enforce any particular language on students who come from outside the state.
When Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi stated that it was a policy decision to teach students functional Kannada to make them fit for employment in the state, the HC noted that learning the language can be made mandatory for job seekers but not otherwise. The bench warned that if the state government does not reconsider the decision, it will stay the order.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Samskrita Bharati Karnataka Trust and others. The petitioners had contended that such a decision to implement Kannada as a compulsory language was not part of the decisions taken by the task force or the subcommittees formed to roll out NEP in the state.
The petitioners stated that the decision to make Kannada compulsory was against the idea of the choice-based credit system (CBCS) of NEP, which allows students to select courses and subjects of their choice. They said that the government order making Kannada compulsory was discriminatory against students who come to Karnataka from other states and countries.
They also highlighted that while Kannada is an “intrinsic part” of the state’s culture and history, it is not the only language spoken by its residents, referring to Tulu, Konkani, Kodava, Beary, Sankheti, Nawayathi, Lambani and Sanskrit.
The petition also cited that this policy change would also result in job losses of 4,000 teachers who are engaged in teaching languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu among others.