The Supreme Court on Thursday isssued notice in a plea challenging the Andhra Pradesh HC Order which had quashed Government Orders seeking to implement English as a compulsory medium of instruction at primary level in all the Government Schools in the state.
While declining the plea for interim stay on the HC order today, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, KM Joseph & Indu Malhotra said that the prayer for interim stay will be considered on September 25.
Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan appearing for the State argued that stay needed to be put to force along with issuance of notice."This is a progressive measure," he said.
Justice Chandrachud inquired about the implications of the HC order and said that Section 29(2)(f) of the RTE Act stipulates that the medium will mean that ordinarily the medium should be in mother tongue "so far as it is applicable" unless not possible. "It seems the HC has taken this into account," he remarked.
Vishwanathan insisted that a stay was imperative as all mechanisms to effectuate this had been put to place.
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan appearing for the Caveator (Respondent) argued that this was about choice which is being taken away from the parents and children whereby Telugu-speaking schools being replaced with english medium. "The state should be fostering its mother tongue," he contended.
On April 15, a division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court led by Chief Justice JK Maheshwari had quashed the Government Orders seeking to implement English as a compulsory medium of instruction at primary level in all the Government Schools in the state.
"The decision of the Government, converting the medium of instruction from Telugu to English medium from Standards I to VI or I to VIII as the case may be, en-bloc, is against the National Policy, on Education Act, 1968 and various other reports, therefore, it cannot be accepted, hence, the impugned G.O, is deserves to be set aside," the high court has held.
The order was passed while disposing of two petitions filed by an Assistant Professor for General Medicine at the ASRAM Medical College and a social activist who contended on the basis of recommendations made by the UNESCO and the Delhi Declaration and Framework for Action, Education for All Summit, 1993, that mother tongue is the best medium of instruction for the children to perform better.
The division bench also comprising Justice Ninala Jayasurya undertook a detailed scrutiny of the pre and post-independence developments in the area and then held as follows:
The High Court held that the option to choose medium of instruction in school education is a fundamental right. "Medium of instruction in which the citizen can be educated is the integral part of the Right to Freedom of Speech and expression," the bench remarked.
The bench observed that after education, citizens may be in a position to express their views freely in a language in which they were educated; and that is why the right to freedom of speech and expression is protected and conferred to a citizen, and is inclusive of the right to opt the medium of instruction in the mother tongue.
It thus held,
"In view of the foregoing, the right to freedom of speech and expression is protected and conferred to a citizen, which includes the right to opt the medium of instruction in the mother tongue or in any of the languages specified in the schedule of the Constitution of India, subjected to restrictions enumerated in Clause (2) of Article 19. Therefore, it can be concluded that, option to choose medium of instruction in school education, is a right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution subject to the exceptions carved out by Article 19 (2) of the Constitution."
The bench also held that the Government order is violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution in so far as it infringes the 'right to practice any profession freely' of linguistic minority institutions to impart education in their minority languages.
It was clarified that for the purposes of 19(1)(g) which is applicable to any profession, occupation, trade and business, running an educational institution is occupation under Article 19 (1) (g), as held by the Supreme Court in TMA Pai Foundation & Ors. v. State of Karnataka & Ors., AIR 2003 SC 355.
"The restrictions, imposed by the G.O., on all the managements would cover the educational institution run by the private linguistic minority management and such an act may fall, to affect the running of the institution, in violation of Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution," the court held.
Section 29 of the RTE Act:
The court noted that Section 29 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which relates to curriculum and evaluation of elementary education, provides that the academic authority should look into the norms for all-round development of child-building, child's knowledge, potentiality and talent, development of physical and mental ability to the fullest extent.
The provision also stipulates that the medium of instruction will be in the child's mother tongue as far as practicable, to make the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety and to help the child to express his/ her views freely and in conformity to the values enshrined in the Constitution.
Thus, the court held that the impugned GO is contrary to the Central legislation.
Section 7 of the Andhra Pradesh Education Act, 1982
A similar observation with regard to importance of imparting education, skills of articulation, etc. in mother tongue has been made under Section 7 of the Andhra Pradesh Education Act, 1982.
Further it was observed that the State Government alone does not have the power for changing the medium of instruction in the schools at primary stage. Rather, Section 7(3) and 7 (4) of the Act provide that SCERT (State Council for Education, Research and Training, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh) will be the academic authority, which may after holding consultation with the prescribed authority, specify the curriculum, framework and the evaluation mechanism along with continuous comprehensive evaluation for the children in the school.
"the State Government alone was not having power for changing the medium of instruction in the schools at primary stage… it is clear that the preparation of the curriculum is a function of the SCERT with the consultation of the Rajiv Vidya Mission as per the norms decided by NCERT to achieve the object as specified in clauses (a) to (h) of Section 29(2) of the RTE Act," the court held.
The bench further stated,
"The stand of the State Government that medium of instruction English is in the benefit of the citizens, being more beneficial in the place of mother tongue at the primary stage of education is absolutely contrary to the law laid down by the Apex Court supra. In fact, en-bloc change of the medium of instruction to "English" in place of mother tongue "Telugu" in the State of Andhra Pradesh, by the stroke of pen taking away the right of the citizen for making choice of medium of instruction of education, affects Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India."
As per the prevalent scheme, the medium of instruction for the children studying in schools in the state of Andhra Pradesh is in the mother tongue i.e., Telugu, and by parallel classes both in English and Telugu as per the choice of the child or parent.