A division bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court including Chief J. JK Maheshwari and J. Ninala Jayasurya quashed government orders on April 15, 2020. The orders implemented English as a compulsory medium of instruction at the primary level in all government schools in the state. However, the court held that the government orders to convert the medium of instruction from Telugu into English is not acceptable. This is because the orders are against the National Policy on Education Act, 1968 and various other reports.
The Bench set aside the orders while disposing of two petitions. The petitions were filed by an Assistant Professor for General Medicine at ASRAM medical college and a social activist. The social activist based his contentions on the recommendations made by UNESCO and Delhi Declaration and Framework for Action, Education for all Summit, 1993. These provided that ‘mother tongue is the best medium of instruction for children to perform better‘.
Ratio Decidendi for Quashing the Government Orders
The High Court remarked that option to chose the medium of instruction in school is a fundamental right under Art. 19(1)(a). This is an integral part of Right to freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Indian constitution. This is because after education a person will be in a better position to express himself freely in the language one is educated. The Bench also held the orders to be violative of rights under Art. 19(1)(g) of linguistic minority institutions to impart education in their minority language. Art. 19(1)(g) grants the right to practice any profession freely. In the case of TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka & Ors AIR 2003, the Supreme Court held that Art. 19(1)(g) applies to running an Educational Institution. Hence, the government orders infringed the right of the linguistic minority institutions.
The Bench further held the orders to be violative of Sec. 29 of the Right to Education Act, 2009 and Sec. 7 of Andhra Pradesh Education Act , 1982. Lastly, the court relied on various precedents, especially State of Karnataka v. Associated Management of English Medium Primary & Secondary Schools (2014). It was held that the medium of instruction for the children studying in schools is their mother tongue i.e. Telugu and by parallel classes both in English and Telugu as per the choice of child or parent.