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On Making Kannada Mandatory For UG Courses


Recently, the High Court of Karnataka stayed the implementation of two orders issued by the State Government making Kannada a compulsory language for undergraduate courses such as BA, BSc, BCom, etc., from the academic year 2021-22. With the interim order of the High Court, students admitted for the academic year 2021-22 are not required to compulsorily study Kannada for the time being.


GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the article:

  1. What were the Government Orders?
  2. What were the litigations that followed?
  3. Central government’s response
  4. What had the court ruled earlier?

What were the Government Orders?

  • The Higher Education Department of Karnataka, on August 7, 2021, notified a Government Order issuing guidelines to universities and affiliated colleges for implementing the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020.
  • As per the guidelines, students joining the undergraduate courses in Karnataka from the academic year 2021-22 were required to study Kannada as a compulsory language among the two languages mandated for the first four semesters.
  • The government also prescribed preparation of a separate Kannada language syllabus for those who have not studied Kannada in 10+2 level and for those whose mother tongue is not Kannada.
  • In another Government Order, issued on September 15, 2021, the department modified the guidelines stating that only functional Kannada is to be taught to students from outside Karnataka or from foreign countries or for those who have not studied Kannada in any level up to 10+2.

What were the litigations that followed?

  • On September 23, 2021, the Samskrita Bharati (Karnataka) Trust filed a petition in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of making Kannada a compulsory subject under the cover of adopting NEP 2020.
  • The litigants argued before the High Court that making Kannada a compulsory language to be studied in UG courses violates various fundamental rights of students and the teaching community.
  • They also argued that making a language compulsory is contrary to the very purpose of NEP-2020, which purports to provide a choice-based system to promote inclusivity.
Central government’s response
  • The High Court had asked the Central government to make its stand clear on whether NEP-2020 prescribes such compulsion to study a particular language.
  • The Central government, in its written statement, clarified to the court that “there is no mention of any compulsory language in NEP-2020.”
  •  The Additional Solicitor General of India, in addition to reiterating the averments made in the statement, made it clear to the court that the regional language cannot be made a compulsory subject in implementation of the NEP.

What had the court ruled earlier?

  • On December 16, 2021, the High Court said that students who have already chosen Kannada language should do so, but that pupils who do not choose to do so should not be forced to do so until further orders are issued.
  • The government was also ordered by the court not to make Kannada a compulsory language.
  • Because of the central government’s response, the court ruled that the Government Orders of August 7 and September 15, 2021, cannot be implemented for the time being.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023