Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression
According to Justice A. K. Patnaik, speaking on behalf of the five members that make up the Constitution Bench preceded by Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, children have the freedom to choose the medium of instruction. This right is transferred to children’s parents and guardians, who act on their behalf. The bench added that, even when most experts agree that providing education to children in their own mother tongues makes learning easier for them, the state cannot prescribe the medium of instruction and force children into that environment because it goes against more fundamental rights.
The Supreme Court also clarified that the ruling applies to schools which are recognised by the government, which includes all government-aided schools and also unaided schools which have been granted state recognition.
Karnataka’s High Court decided to impose Kannada as the language of instruction in primary school years based on Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution, which enunciate citizens’ right to education. In 1989, the Karnataka government had chosen its mother tongue as the language used for teaching children in primary schools, but in 1993 the Supreme Court overruled this decision. In 1994, the state reinstated Kannada as the medium of instruction, but the decision was overuled a second time in 2008. This time, the Supreme Court has stated that Kannada should not be imposed in primary schools for the third time, following Karnataka’s appeal of the 2008 decision.