A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has referred to a larger bench the question whether Tamil can be made a compulsory subject in Board Examination.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose noted, "Under the Tamil Nadu Tamil Learning Act, 2006 and/or Rules and/or Regulations framed and/or orders issued thereunder, exemption from appearance at the Tamil compulsory paper in the Board examination is permitted in certain contingencies. Considering the uncertainty caused by reason of conflicting decisions of two different Division Benches of this Court, it is imperative that the entire issue of whether Tamil can be made compulsory subject in Part 1, which will count towards total marks, percentage and ranking of the concerned candidates, is referred to a Larger Bench."
The Court was hearing Petitions filed by the Linguistic Minorities Forum of Tamil Nadu, as well as several other institutions demanding that students studying in Linguistic Minority Schools be exempted from taking the Class X Board Examination in Tamil.
During the hearing on 27 February, the Court noted that the question that has now arisen was whether the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Tamil Learning Act, 2006 can be enforced against Non-Tamil students of schools established and administered by minorities. This is to be examined in view of the Fundamental Right guaranteed to religious and linguistic minorities under Article 30 of the Constitution of India to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Taking note of the issue, the Court opined, "Whether Tamil can be made a compulsory subject for Non-Tamil students of a minority institution in a Board examination and if so, whether the marks obtained in Tamil should also count for the computation of the total marks and in determining the ranking/grading of the students, requires consideration.
Needless to mention that adding of the marks obtained in Tamil for computation of the total marks obtained in the Board Examination would prejudicially affect the prospects of the students of Non-Tamil minority communities seeking admission for further and/or higher studies in institutions of repute."
It then referred the question of making it compulsory to a larger bench, and in the meantime, directed the Director of Government Examinations to grant an exemption to students who had applied for the same. It, however, clarified,
"It is made clear that this interim order is passed in the special circumstances of the case considering, inter alia, the submission that there has been shortage of Tamil Teachers, and will not be treated as a precedent to claim exemption in coming years."