HC asks for Centre’s stand on Karnataka making Kannada compulsory for UG courses

The High Court of Karnataka on Monday directed the Centre to make its stand clear on the State Government’s order of making Kannada as a compulsory language for undergraduate courses from the academic year 2021–22 on the “pretext” of implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum issued the direction while hearing a PIL petition filed by Samskrita Bharati (Karnataka) Trust and other educational institutions.

The petitioners have questioned the legality of the Government Orders (GOs) issued on August 7, 2021, and September, 15, 2021, making Kannada one of the two languages to be compulsorily studied in degree courses irrespective of the languages they studied up to Class XII, the State from which they hail from, and their mother tongue or the regional language.

The Bench adjourned further hearing till November 30 while asking the Centre to make its stand clear on the issues raised in the petition and the stand of the State Government.

Earlier, State Advocate-General Prabhuling K. Navadgi, while denying the allegation of the petitioners that imposing a language at undergraduate level is a contrary to the NEP, claimed that it was a policy decision of the Government to promote Kannada.

At this stage, the Bench orally asked the A-G whether the State does not have any other means to promote Kannada without making it compulsory while pointing out that promoting a language was different than making it compulsory.


Two levels

The A-G also clarified to the court that two levels of Kannada — one for those who have studied Kannada prior to joining UG courses and the other for those who come from outside Karnataka and foreign countries for UG courses without having any knowledge of Kannada — had been prescribed. The syllabus prescribed for those from outside Karnataka and from foreign countries was only functional Kannada to ensure that they could communicate in Kannada with the locals in the State.

It was also claimed on behalf of the State Government that the admission for the academic year had been already completed and the students had enrolled for various courses accepting to study Kannada as a language. The A-G also claimed that no college or students had questioned making Kannada a compulsory subject.

However, the counsel for the petitioners submitted copies of letters written by some of the students admitted to a few colleges requesting the principals to allow them to opt for a language other than Kannada but their requests were turned down by the college authorities citing the State Government’s orders.

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Sagar Biswas

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