Chief Justice of India S A Bobde on Tuesday said that it is “important that a child learns in the mother tongue” to build the “foundation”, and disagreed with submissions that lawyers who studied in vernacular languages find it difficult to argue in Supreme Court.
The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, was hearing a plea by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the state High Court order striking down its decision to make English medium mandatory for classes I to VI in government schools from 2020-21 session.
Appearing for the state, senior counsel K V Viswanathan submitted that lack of proficiency in the language limits opportunities and creates “islands of exclusion”.
Intervening, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it is not fair to say so.
Viswanathan said he himself comes from a place 40 km from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and has friends who studied in vernacular medium but find it difficult to practice in SC because they think in vernacular and then translate. And by the time they speak, the miscellaneous matters would have finished, he submitted.
Countering this, senior advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, appearing for the respondent, said one of the judges on the bench, Justice Ramasubramaian, had studied in Tamil medium. S-G Mehta added that many judges had their education in vernacular medium.
CJI Bobde said Viswanathan ‘s example was “inappropriate”. Viswanathan said he meant that they may not be able to argue at par with those who have studied in English medium. But the CJI observed that even after one finishes school, by the time an advocate reaches the Supreme Court, there is a lot of learning period in between, during which they can learn English and also the art of public speaking. “But (their) foundation is very important,” Viswanathan contended.
The CJI said mother tongue is important for foundation and that India is perhaps the only country where education does not start in a child’s mother tongue. He referred to examples of China, France, etc, where the medium of instruction is mother tongue.
CJI Bobde said he is in agreement on the importance of English language, and added that there are different views among experts regarding the medium of instruction.
Viswanathan pressed for a stay of the HC order. The court said it will consider the prayer in the next hearing.
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